Archives June 2021

A Reflection on Interreligious Dialogue

A Reflection on Interreligious Dialogue

By Niru Maya Tamang

Interreligious Dialogue of Catholic Church is the most enlightening and informative session to me. The highlighted topic of this session attracted me to take part in it. It was my first online session from the Asian Lay Leaders Forum and I had mixed feelings of both excitement and nervousness. In the first week of the session when pluralism in the Bible was introduced, I felt I was not meant for this session because I was not able to understand anything.

The whole topic, terms and words used in this session was all new to me. I even planned to discontinue this session but I challenged my self and determined to pay good attention in the session and ask the the questions I if did not understand anything. I payed proper attention and found that Fr. Bagus was trying to make us understand each and every new topic in more simpler way, it was me who was stopping to understand that new words not that the words were too difficult. So, the session became more and more interesting with the new topic such as Vatical II, Abu Dhabi Document, Interreligious dialogue of Catholic Church with other religion and much more.

As Nepali Catholic girl, studying in an Islamic country, Bangladesh. In the beginning, found it very difficut to talk with Muslim students due to the stereotypical thinking which I had about them and that they were against christians and that they’re terrorists. I used to feel safe and had a feeling of family with any chiristian students despite of their nationality but used to feel that I was in another planet when I was with non-christian students. But this session especially: Interreligious Dialogue of Catholic Church with Islam and Abu Dhabi Document really helped me a lot to accept each and every person as a creation of God and to respect their religions too. Currently, I have a good relationship with other non-christian students in my university, thanks to this session.

The group discussion was my favorite part of this session because I got to learn and know different experiences and views of other participants in the group. Actually, I did not actively participate in the group discussion, and  sometimes when I did I found that other group members were very supportive, kind and passionate to hear my unrelevent explanation. This group discussion had taught me to open up my self mentally and spiritually and to be more confident in myself.

Lastly,  I used to feel that I knew about my religion: Catholic Church fully but from this session I learned that there are still many things left to be learned and that I did not know about my religion completely. Now I feel that I need to keep on learning about my religion and know about it completely so that one day I can really defend my religion with full confidence against the world of controversies.

Renewed Action

Renewed Action

by Neilan D’souza

The theme of this month’s E-newsletter is based on the Apostolic Letter ‘Octogesima Adveniens’ addressed by Pope Paul VI to Cardinal Maurice Roy (on 14 May 1971), the then president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, on the occasion of the eightieth anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum. In his letter, Pope Paul VI tries to highlight many social issues faced by the people at the time and tries to inspire renewed action for lay members to participate in social and political reform according to the Gospel.

Why was it then and still important now for the laity to participate in social and political reform? You may ask. It is simply because the pressing issues of the times are always faced by the common people and from time to time it has always been the common people who have sought ways to move those in power and bring about positive change. Likewise, Pope Paul VI points out in paragraph 4 of ‘Octogesima Adveniens’ that “It is up to the Christian communities to analyze with objectivity the situation which is proper to their own country, to shed on it the light of the Gospel’s unalterable words and to draw principles of reflection, norms of judgment and directives for action from the social teaching of the Church.”

Pope Paul VI calls for “Awakening the People of God” in para 51 and importantly calls for Christian organisations to take responsibility for collective action as he quotes lines from ‘Lumen Gentium’ and ‘Apostolicam Actuositatem’ stating, “It is in this regard too that Christian organizations, under their different forms, have a responsibility for collective action. Without putting themselves in the place of the institutions of civil society, they have to express, in their own way and rising above their particular nature, the concrete demands of the Christian faith for a just, and consequently necessary, transformation of society.”

Building on these ideas put forward by Pope Paul VI, we the laity must engage in renewed action led by our Christian faith, atleast at the community or local level, because it has always been our duty as Christians and also as the principle teaching of CST’s to secure democratic foundations in society by ensuring human dignity and social justice. Therefore through this issue we invite you to be inspired by your faith and take steps towards renewed action.

Reading Octogesim Advenins through Liberation and Development

Reading Octogesim Advenins through Liberation and Development

Dr. Paul Hwang – Director of ALL Forum

After the General Assembly of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM) in Medellin, Columbia, (1968), Pope Paul VI published in 1971 an important document on social issues, Octogesim Advenins, or the “Eightieth Anniversary”, as a response to the Medellin conference which seemed to influence the pope in a significant way. It is the papal letter commemorating the 80th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum. The letter refers to his another encyclical Populorum Pregressio (1967) or “On Development of the Peoples” in several places, but with a different perspective. It shows its relationship with Gaudium et Spes (1965), one of most important documents of Vatican II; the subsequent Populorum Pregressio, which focuses on an integral development and the Medellin document which emphasizes on liberation. The paragraphs 5 and 6  of Octogesim Advenins illustrate this well:

“Since the period in which the encyclical Rerum Novarum denounced in a forceful and imperative manner the scandal of the condition of the workers in the nascent industrial society, historical evolution has led to an awareness of other dimensions and other applications of social justice. The encyclicals Quadragesimo Anno and Mater et Magistra already noted this fact. The recent Council for its part took care to point them out, in particular in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes. We ourself have already continued these lines of thought in our encyclical Populorum Progressio. ‘Today’, we said, ‘the principal fact that we must all recognize is that the social question has become worldwide’.” (no.5)

“It will moreover be for the forthcoming Synod of Bishops itself to study more closely and to examine in greater detail the Church’s mission in the face of grave issues raised today by the question of justice in the world.”(no.6)

Pope Paul VI asserts “development is a new name for peace” in his Populorum Pregressio. The Pope believes that a beneficial development for all is the way to respond to the demand for justice at the global level, and that if justice at the global level is implemented, peace can be achieved in the world. In 1967, Paul VI established the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace to practice development and peace. He consciously addressed some of the political issues involved in choosing and implementing a fair social order, focusing on political issues that lay in the economic crisis. Therefore, it attempted to balance development and liberation. The Saint pope also institutionalized a synod of bishops to specifically support the Vatican II’s decision and to determine follow-up measures. In 1971, the bishops’ synod published “Justice in the World”, one of the most significant document in the area of Catholic Social Teachings or CSTs of the Church especially the theme of social justice. The text emphasizes that “Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel.” (no. 6).

Many leaders, including bishops, still believed that the way to overcome poverty was through development. The expression ‘liberation through development’ represents an attempt to take into account various situations and prospects. The emphasis on the importance of political activities or involvement expressed in the paragraph 46 of Octogesima Advenins is also seen as an important contribution to CSTs as follows:

“Though it is often a field of confrontation and domination, it can give rise to dialogue and foster cooperation. Yet it runs the risk of taking up too much strength and freedom. This is why the need is felt to pass from economics to politics…. Political power, which is the natural and necessary link for ensuring the cohesion of the social body, must have as its aim the achievement of the common good.”(no. 46)

Online Course of Encyclical Pope Francis

Online Course of Encyclical Pope Francis

Held by KOMJak Indonesia

ALL Forum Will be organising capacity building online sessions in 2 batches on Major Documents of Pope Francis in the month of July 2021. It will be facilitated by Dr.Paul Hwang especially for Indonesian Youth from KOMJAK and various other Indonesain Youth Movements.

  
This course will cover the Major Documents of Pope Francis:

1) “Joy of the Gospel” (Evangelli Gaudium, 2013)
2) “Praised be to Lord” (Laudato Si, 2015)
3) “Rejoice and be Glad” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 2018)
4) “All Brothers” (Fratelli Tutti, 2020)

“Mother Earth Mourning”to respond Japan’s plan on nuclear waste

“Mother Earth Mourning” to respond Japan’s plan on nuclear waste

organised by IMCS Pax Romana Asia Pacific

International Movement of Catholic Students Asia Pacific invites you to join a Webinar with the theme “Mother Earth Mourning” to respond on Japan’s plan on nuclear waste.

According to reports, On March 2011, Japan Fukushima nuclear power plant was leaked, and the cooling system of the nuclear power plant was also damaged. This radioactive nuclear waste has flowed into surrounding sewers with rainwater, and even into the Pacific Ocean. However, Japan’s TEPCO said that although the concentration of radioactive material leaked was high, it had been found through testing of radioactive substances in the surrounding sewers and bays that it did not increase significantly, meaning that even if it was leaked, it would not pollute the environment at all. Is it that true? Let’s join the webinar and discuss..,

Register in advance for this meeting by clicking the link below 

FREE PALESTINE! An Online Ecumenical Solidarity Gathering to End the Occupation!

FREE PALESTINE! An Online Ecumenical Solidarity Gathering to End the Occupation!

Jointly organised by National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Kalipunan ng Kristiyanong Kabataan sa Pilipinas and the Ecumenical Bishops Forum

Free Palestine! An Online Ecumenical Solidarity Gathering to End the Occupation! Took place on the 5th of June 2021. “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free. Luke 4:18, NIV

For more than 70 years, the Palestinian people have been subjected to immense colonization and occupation of their land. The State of Israel backed up by the US and other Western Countries have continued to imposed institutionalized discrimination against them under the Occupied Palestinian Territories . This Apartheid through Israeli control have resulted to tremendous suffering of the Palestinian people. Massive evictions, land confiscation and demolition of their own homes in their own lands have resulted to unprecedented displacement of lives and livelihoods only exacerbated by chronic poverty amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the years and years of discrimination against the Palestinian people over access to public lands, services and employment have aggravated their situation into searing humanitarian crisis. 

To this day, the continuing catastrophe of loss of lands and livelihood remain unabated. The ongoing attacks on Gaza Strip and the West Bank have already claimed hundreds of lives, and disproportionately uprooted the Palestinian people. At least 232 Palestinians, including 65 children, have been killed in 11 days of Israeli bombardment. On the Israeli side, 12 people, including two children, have been killed .

The plight of our Palestinian siblings of being continuously uprooted from their own homes and land are the same with the situation of our National Minorities in the Philippines. Our Indigenous people along with our Moro sisters and brothers who live in the fringes of our society have also been experiencing decades long of institutional neglect and oppression.

As Christians, we pray for peace in Palestine, we also stand with them to end the on-going occupation of their lands. Our call to Free Palestine also reverberates to the call to free all the oppressed people in the world- especially those that are historically marginalized and exploited. As Christians, we have a critical role to dismantle powers that denies life and subjugate people. For our God is the God of life, and the One that liberates. 

With this, the Ecumenical Community through the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Kalipunan ng Kristiyanong Kabataan sa Pilipinas and the Ecumenical Bishops Forum organised a virtual gathering with the theme: Free Palestine! An Online Ecumenical Solidarity Gathering to End the Occupation! In this gathering we deliberated on:

1. Present the historical context and current situation of the Palestine-Israel conflict.

2. Witnessed the historical role of Christianity on the ongoing situation in Palestine; and

3. Extended our solidarity to the people of Palestine as we recognized the connection of struggle of Palestinian people to the Philippines’ displaced people.

New Cosmology based on a New Pneumatology for Sacred Development

New Cosmology based on a New Pneumatology for Sacred Development

By Fr. Jojo M. Fung, SJ

Overview of the New Cosmology
The new cosmology explained the genesis as an initial explosion or Big Bang. This sudden explosion brought all matter, energy, space and time into existence. The afterglow of this explosion resembles a cosmic microwave background radiation that Marcus Chown (2006, 147) described a whitish “like the inside of a light bulb” to the extent that “even billions of years after the event, all of space is still glowing softly with relic heat of the Big Bang fireball.”1

Michael Dowd (2009) preferred to call it “the great radiance.”2 A split second after the big bang, an extremely rapid, accelerating inflation (Davies 2006; Gribbin 2009) began.3 Thereafter a slow and steady development continued for billions of years. Some called this an eternal inflation (Primack and Abrams 2006, 190ff) which is a state of existence that is eternal.4

This eternal inflation occasions the possibility of a multiverse where there is more than just one universe. This multiverse, scientists (Steinhardt and Turok 2007) postulate is an infinite open universe without any beginning or end.5 The multiverse enjoys an “infinite duration” (Deutsch 2011).6 against the backdrop of the genesis of creation. This new cosmology has profound impact on pneumatology. A re-thinking of pneumatology is called for. This will be dealt with in the next section.

The New Pneumatology
The new Pneumatology explains the Spirit in terms of the action/activity since “God is an activity rather than a person” (Kaufman 2004, xi, 48).7 This re-thinking of the Spirit as action or “activity in the world” (Pannenberg 1988, 12)8) denotes the Spirit “as the marvelous depth of life out of which all life originates” and “as active in the self-transcendence of life” (O’ Murchu 2012, 39, 51, 5).8 In this sense, it is more relevant to describe “the Spirit in the physical universe, rather than the metaphysical; in time rather than the eschaton; in space and matter, rather than the supernatural; in movement, rather than in presence” (Wofgang Vondey 2009, 35-36).9

This immanent presence of the Spirit conveys the cosmic omnipresence of God as conveyed by both panenthesism – all things exist and subsist in God and ‘theo-en-pasism’, God in all things.10 Moreover, the new pneumatology understands the Spirit as activity or action of God in creation.

The Spirit (Gen 1:1) that hovers over the chaos (tohu va-vohu), understood as the unfolding wild and raw material, is the Spirit that “awakens from within the chaos a primordial profoundity that is understood as the “primoridial spirit power, a creative resilience, without beginning or end – a foundational, energetic wisdom” (O’ Murchu 2012, 29). The Spirit’s action is manifested in the “foundational creativity of ageless existence – eternal like the divine life itself – and it has definite connotations of exuberance, elegance, passion, wildness, and prodigious fertility” and even “marks the beginning” of everything – even that of the Godhead itself.” (Ibid., 158).

Sacred Development as the Future
The emergent cosmology and pneumatology calls for the practice of the spirituality of mystic moments. This spirituality is the foundation of initiating an era of sacred development as the future of humankind and the earth.

3.1. Spirituality of mystic moments. This spirituality enjoins each human to be an everyday mystic. As a mystic, each one is enjoined to enter the mystic state of “bodiciousness.” In this state, the entire body experiences the self as an organic part within an organic whole of the universe that is evolving, emergent, pervasively infused with self-organizing patterns and a dynamic sense of direction into the future. In this state of “bodiciousness” the self is also experiencing that which the earth and the universe are experiencing. In other words, “bodiciousness” is but a drop of felt experience in the sea of “earthiciousness” and ocean of “cosmociousness.”

3.2. Ritualized Development. Rituals have to be an integral part of any development plan. Economists, technocrats, industrialists and scientists need to learn from the religious farmers of Asia who begin the day with offerings at the shrine of the “god” of the land, seeking for blessings for their crops and soil in their organic farms. Important too is the lesson imparted by the indigenous peoples who ritualize with sentiments of begging the spirit of water and the land for forgiveness in midst of piping the water and offers rituals of thanksgiving upon a successful harvest. Indigenous peoples firmly believe that rituals make everything in nature and everyone in the village sacred. Rituals adds a sacred dimension to development. Development that engages rituals opens those in development to the Spirit’s action/activity in our midst, in nature, in our world/planet earth and the universe.

3.3. Sacred Development. Sacred development calls for the active practice of “bodiciousness” that intimates and attunes those in development to the communication and organic and psychic experience of the soil, the land, the ponds, the rivers, the fauna and flora. The practice of “bodiciousness” facilitates an experience of the “cosmic self-creativity” that experience God as “immanently present and active in and through the self creativity of the cosmos” (Gloria L. Schaab 2007, 138).11 This experience of God’s creative presence resonates with the experience of “the phenomenon of spirit” that “is the very thread of which the other phenomena are woven for us” (Chardin 1969, 93).12

This Creative Spirit constantly communicates with us through nature and the earth. At the same time, the practice facilitates the deciphering of the messages communicated to the humans. Once the communication is understood, sacred development takes on a spiritual dimension that allows the developers to be led by God’s Spirit.

The developers ensure that all economic projects become initiatives that open the human hearts to the fourfold activities of God’s Spirit in the cosmos. The hearts that are touched by God’s Spirit become the conduits of the Creative Spirit to engage in the activity of suffusing, sacralizing, sensitizing and sustaining all space and time on the face of the earth. In this way, God’s Creative Spirit guides the developers in the economic projects that uphold the sustainability of the human ecology and environmental ecology.

Conclusion
The universe and the earth are organic, spirited and sacred. The universe is an expanding organic web of interrelated and interdependent relations and imbued with self-organizing patterns and a sense of direction and purpose. The Creative Spirit is the action/activity within this organic and sacred web, guiding humans to greater flourishing through the practice of the mystic spirituality of “bodisciousness.” This practice enables humankind to initiate an era of sacred development that grounds all economic projects, scientific and technological advancement in an emergent spirituality of sacred sustainability of the earth and the universe.

Ref:
1) For more detail, see Marcus Chown, Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You (London: Faber & Faber, 2006).
2) See Michael Dowd, Thank God for Evolution (San Francisco: council Oak Books, 2009).
3) See Paul Davies, The Goldilocks Enigma: Why is the Universe jus Right for Life? (London: Penguin, 2006) and John Gribbin, In Search of the Multiverse (New York: Allen Lane, 2009).
4) See Joel Primack and Nancy Abrams, The View from the Center of the Universe (New York: Riverhead Books, 2006).
5) See Paul Steinhardt, “The Inflation Debate,” Scientific American 304, no. 4: 18-25 & Paul Steinhardt and Neil Turok, Endless Universe (New York: Doubleday, 2007).
6) See David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform The World (New York: Allen Lane, 2011).
7) See Gordon D. Kaufmann, In the Beginning: Creativity (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2004).
8) See Wolfart Pannenberg, “The Doctrine of Creation and Modern Science,” Zygon 23 (1): 3-21.
9) See Wolfgang Vondey, “The Holy Spirit and the Physical Universe: The Impact of Scientific Paradigm Shifts on Contemporary Pneumatology,” Theological Studies 70, no. 1 (March 2009): 22.
10) Jose I. Gonzalez Faus, I’m Coming, Lord: Contemplatives in Relation, Cristianisme I Justicia, 144(2012), 15.
11) See Gloria L. Schaab, The Creative Suffering of the Triune God (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).
12) See Teilhard de Chardin, Hymn of the Universe (New York & London: Harper and Row, 1969)

Ecofeminism in the Asian Context (Feminism and Ecology)

Ecofeminism in the Asian Context (Feminism and Ecology)

By Sr. Rehka Chennattu, RA (India)

Asian Reality and Feminism
The Asian society is divided by inequalities of class, caste, race, colour, gender and disability. But probably the most cruel, dehumanizing and destructive as well as most comprehensive and pervasive of all inequalities is gender inequality – the socially and culturally imposed differences between women and men, boys and girls. One dominant instrument deployed by men and boys to reduce women and girls to fear and subjugation is rape. Our daily newspapers show that sexual harassment, rape and murder are the destiny of many women today.

These stories depict the sad plight of women in contemporary society, and call for women’s struggle for the right to life, and for justice, dignity and wholeness.

It is in this context that we understand better feminism and feminist movements, which try both to create an awareness of the atrocities committed against women or discrimination against women in society, in the Church, at work or within the family as well as to make conscious efforts to change these situations. Feminism is an ideology or world-view which questions the patriarchal attitudes which result in the domination of men over women. Feminism envisages a culture that promotes a relationship of mutuality and fosters co-operation and interdependence between men and women.

Many people prefer to shy away from being called feminist as it is a much misunderstood and misinterpreted concept. What is the unique and distinct way in which Asian women respond to the present situation of cultural alienation, religious deprivation and male domination? The following observation seems timely and relevant. The conventions such as “being submissive” or “to cultivate a capacity to endure suffering and humiliation” still reflect in many ways what Asian women were taught (and still believe) as the most natural, normal and noble way of behaving in society.

What seems appropriate in handling these issues is the strategy of constructive dialogues in view of challenging and changing the gender stereotypes in the Church and society being sensitive to the deepest aspirations of Asian women, who try to integrate both their mind and heart or reasons and emotions. Theological illiteracy is indeed one of the reasons for the subordination of women in the Church. Adequate biblical and theological formation will empower women to play their rightful role in the Church.

It is in this context of rich spiritualties as well as the process of secularization and the dehumanization of women/girls existing side by side that we reflect on biblical feminist spirituality for ecological sustainability.

Feminism and Ecology (Ecofeminism)
What is the link or connection between feminism and ecology? Since the beginning of the human species, there has been a close association between women and the earth, which is manifested in culture, history, and language. The earth and women are linked by the ancient world-view that regarded the earth as the nurturing mother. Both women and the earth are connected to production and to mothering, the ability to bring forth life and sustenance.

We women do not have to learn that we are part of the cosmos, because of our biological properties – menstruation, pregnancy, birthing and nurturance – we recognize ourselves as part of the universe rather than an outsider.1 This close connection also “results from the striking parallels which exist between the treatment of the Earth and the treatment of women.

For example, the traditional role of both is seen as an instrumental one – women and the earth are viewed in terms of having usefulness rather than as having intrinsic worth in their own right.”2 In the words of Maria Mies, “women and subjugated peoples are treated as if they were means of production or natural resources, similar to water, air and land.”3 The violence to the earth leading to the present ecological crisis, and the violence to women leading to the exploitation of women, arise from the subjugation of the feminine principle, namely, the life-giving and life-nurturing principles contained in productivity and creativity.

Moreover, the environmental issues are also women’s issues, as women are affected much during droughts and famines; they get sick, starve and die from toxics; their capacity to bear new life is threatened by pollution; they bear the burden of care for the sick and dying.4 Hence we talk about ecofeminism – it is the coming together of ecology and feminism, a coming together brought about by those who see the link between the domination of women and the domination of the earth/universe.5 In other words, we talk about an intimate link between feminism and ecology as they have a similar experience of subjugation as well as common concerns and goals to emancipate women and the earth from exploitation.

Ref:

  1. See also Eleanor Rae, Women, the Earth and the Divine (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1994), 29.
  2. Val Plumwood, Ecofeminism: An Overview and Discussion of Positions and Arguments,” in Women and Philosophy,ed. Jana L. Thompson (Australian Journal of Philosophy, sup?plement to vol. 64, 1986), 120.
  3. Maria Mies, Women, The last Colony (London: Zed Books, 1988), p. 5.
  4. Eleanor Rae, Women, the Earth and the Divine (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1994), 51.
  5. Eleanor Rae, Women, the Earth and the Divine (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1994), 23.

Reading Rerum Novarum in New Era

Reading Rerum Novarum in New Era

by Dr. Paul Hwang Director of ALL Forum

Let me start this short essay with where we are by bringing what we call “the 4th Industiral Revolution here.” On January 20, 2016, the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, was attended by senior government officials from more than 100 countries and 1,500 CEOs from large companies to discuss “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” Klaus Schwab, president of the World Economic Forum, said the huge wave was an opportunity and a challenge.

He said technological innovation “will bring supply-side miracles due to increased productivity,” but it could “deepen inequality and cause serious confusion in the labor market.”

From this, we would say that in this rapidly changing world we face great promises to the future and deadly risks coexist at the same time. Pope Francis feared that the already extreme polarization, inequality, and unjust world situation would worsen into the “fourth industrial revolution.” In a letter to the chairman of the World Economic Forum, the pope said, “The culture of prosperity should not drive us to death and stop us from hearing the suffering and howling of the poor.” In particular, he stressed that “a new business model should be created,” fearing “a surge in inequality and poverty” and “a sharp decrease in the number of jobs.”

At that time, Oxfam, the world’s largest international relief and development organization, announced, “The wealth of the 62 richest people is equivalent to the wealth of half the world’s population.” In this situation of wealth polarization, our sense of problem is that we have entered an era where the form of labor and the consciousness of workers are rapidly changing.

Of course, what I mentioned just above is quite different from the era when Pope Leo XIII lived. It is clear that Leo XIII issued Rerum Novarum precisely because he saw significant injustice in the plight of the working class. He believed that justice in the realm of work includes right working conditions proper to the dignity of each worker, and sufficient income and benefits to maintain material wellbeing. Another word, Leo XIII maintained that labor must serve the good of the worker. It should be the work that promotes the human development of the individual worker and contributes positively to the good of society. Decent work must be categorized by its fairness to the personal and social dimensions of human labor.

When Pope Leo XIII wrote the document, it was during the Second Industrial Revolution and the development of industrial labor led to a significant spread of factory-style mechanical labor. As I mentioned in the last newsletter, Leo XIII defended the principles of private property and markets, but did not see the free contract system as complete. This was because powerful capitalists saw that contracts with weak workers were not equal and that human rights of many workers were violated.

Under the current economic system led by neoliberalism, labor is highly fragmented and contractual labor dominates. Now, not the era of proletariat, but the era of Pricariat, which refers to the unstable labor-free class suffering from low-wage and low-skilled labor, has arrived. It is a combination of the Italian word Precario, which means unstable, and proletariat. More commonly used in Europe, the term refers to persons in short-term jobs, without job security or benefits such as health insurance, sick time and reimbursement for vehicle maintenance. Workers who are part of the precariat lack the ability to bargain over the terms of their employment.

When examining such a unequal economic system mainly good for those in the power to “influence”, if not control, the market economy, it remains helpful to recall Leo XIII’s assessment to “free contract”. He noted that even if workers accept harsh conditions due to an employer’s unwillingness to offer better conditions, it implies that the worker does not freely consent but ends up with the victim of unjust coercion often. Under the circumstance, the contract between the capitalist and the laborer is problematic especially when there are few better options for members of the precariat.
It is a well-known fact that there has been a trend in tradition of Catholic church to protect and promote not only the physical dimension but also the spiritual one of humans. However, it must be seen that how many of these unsteady and fragmented workers will live humane lives is quite different from the times of Leo XIII’s writing this document in 130 years ago.

It is surely the case that the class struggle between the capitalists and the laborers theorized by Karl Marx may not be valid any longer even in some Asian countries where, for instance, insurance fund collected from the laborers is spent for paying for the retirement pension of the capitalists! Rather, the tension and discrimination among regular workers and irregular contract workers themselves are getting increased more and more. The church, therefore, must be careful and alert in responding to the needs of the laborers in various situations.



Remembering the Great Sacrifice of Bishop John Joseph

Remembering the Great Sacrifice of Bishop John Joseph

Active Youth Group

Born in 1932 to a Punjabi Catholic family, he made history by becoming the “first native bishop” of Pakistan. He played a key role in changing the perception of Christianity as a colonial religion. Indeed, it can be argued that it was through people like Joseph that Christianity found its roots in South Asia.

On May 6, Bishop Joseph went to the Sahiwal court and took his life in protest against Blasphemy law. His suicide note read: “I shall count myself extremely fortunate if in this mission of breaking the barriers, our Lord accepts the sacrifice of my blood for the benefit of his people.”

The symbolism of Bishop Joseph’s sacrifice was not lost on Pakistan’s Christian community, which regarded him highly. It was the ultimate sacrifice, not unlike Jesus Christ’s, for his community. The bishop’s suicide brought global scrutiny towards sacrilegious and discriminatory laws.

He dedicated his life to social organisation and political activism at a time when Pakistan was changing drastically. Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamisation project had started to alter the very fabric of the society in the 1980s, with religious groups gaining such power they were openly challenging the state’s writ.

Pakistani catholics commemorating his day every year on 6 May where they renew his vows to protect the sheeps and keep struggling for equal rights in Pakistan. Fr. Nadeem Joseph OP, Superior Dominican Community Sahiwal, said that Bishop John was the voice of the voiceless, an example of courage and evangelical devotion,” and his sacrifice “was a cry in the wildness that lifted the veil of silence surrounding extremism.

Bishop John was the voice of discriminated Pakistani,” said Ashiknaz Khokhar, Human Rights activist and Secretary of Active Youth Group. “He broke the culture of silence and spoke out, when no one dared to, against the extremists of the country. We should not minimise his great struggle by reducing it to seminars or anniversaries; we should instead bring it into our daily lives”.

Reported by Ashiknaz Khokhar
Alumni – AYA/ATF