As we begin the month of November, continuing the theme of justice in the world for the second time, it is crucial for us to understand the term Justice more deeply and in connection with our daily christian lives.
The Church received three very important teachings from Jesus Christ himself: 1) The mission of preaching the Gospel message, 2) Universal kinship and 3) A consequent demand for justice in the world. Out of which the Church tirelessly practices only the mission of preaching the Gospel, while the latter two are usually neglected. We as Lay faithful, often only follow the duties of attending Sunday mass regularly, joining in prayer services, participating in charitable and voluntary works lead by the church but never practice our faith beyond these matters mainly because we are not aware that it is our Christian responsibility to do so.
Paragraph 38 of ‘Justice in the World’ informs us that “The members of the Church, as members of society, have the same right and duty to promote the common good as do other citizens. Christians ought to fulfill their temporal obligations with fidelity and competence. They should act as a leaven in the world, in their family, professional, social, cultural and political life. They must accept their responsibilities in this entire area under the influence of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church. In this way they testify to the power of the Holy Spirit through their action in the service of people in those things which are decisive for the existence and the future of humanity.”
Therefore we cannot simply neglect Jesus’ teachings of Universal Kinship and A consequent demand for justice in the world because, it altogether forms the core identity of being a true follower of Christ. As mentioned in the paragraph above we must act as a leaven (transforming influence) in our own little ways, accepting that achieving Universal Kinship (being inclusive and finding relation with one another as one family) and striving for justice through action inspired by love and right is our Christian responsibility.
Asian Lay Leaders Forum was able to complete another session of its online course on the major documents of Pope Francis – Gaudete Et Exsultate in October, exclusively for Vietnamese Participants. The Participants during this session enjoyed a fruitful Input Session followed by an interesting Question and Answer session for about 45 minutes which brought about a broader understanding of various concepts such as ‘Holiness’, ‘Mysticism’, ‘Practical Mysticism’and so on.
The final session for Pakistani participants could not take place that same evening due to an internet outage in Paksitan and awaits being rescheduled. Meanwhile Subscribe to our Youtube Channel and browse there to view all our recorded sessions.
This month IMCS AP’s CLAP program will be based on the theme Religion. It will take place between 12th to 29th November. Kindly join their session by registering at the link below. Last date to apply – 9 November 2021.
This is the subtitle of the third part in the document Justice in the World . It includes what I have already mentioned in the previous issue ‘the Church must first be just in people’s eyes when it says something about justice.’(no.40) The document also shows its support ‘diversity’ of the voices of the People of God by pointing out “freedom of expression.” “The Church recognizes everyone’s right to suitable freedom of expression and thought. This includes the right of everyone to be heard in a spirit of dialogue which preserves a legitimate diversity within the Church.” So the church should not be excluded such diversity, rather it promotes and guarantees plurality in ideas, interpretation and thoughts on church teachings and even dogma by learning to be “listening Church” stressed often by Pope Francis.
In the same line with Gaudium et Spes , the document on world bishops’ synod points out the principle of the Gospel when it comes to the relationship between State and the Church: “In regard to temporal possessions, whatever be their use, it must never happen that the evangelical witness which the Church is required to give becomes ambiguous. The preservation of certain positions of privilege must constantly be submitted to the test of this principle….”(no.47) The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World cleary supports the said idea right above: “[Church] will even give up the exercise of certain rights which have been legitimately acquired, if it becomes clear that their use will cast doubt on the sincerity of her witness or that new ways of life demand new methods….In this, she should make use of all the means—but only those—which accord with the Gospel and which correspond to the general good according to the diversity of times and circumstances.”(no.76.e)
Justice and Daily Life of the People of God
The document of the Justice in the World is quite meaningful for laypeople as itlinks justice to everyday life of Christians as a believer and a citizen at the same time. “Christians’ specific contribution to justice is the day-to-day life of individual believers acting like the leaven of the Gospel in their family, their school, their work and their social and civic life. …. Accordingly, educational method must be such as to teach people to live their lives in its entire reality and in accord with the evangelical principles of personal and social morality which are expressed in the vital Christian witness of one’s life.” (no.49) It goes on to spread and expand the ‘double membership’ as a faithful and a citizen to the extent of a world citizenship which concerns what happens in theworld today: “…This cooperation concerns first and foremost activities for securing
human dignity and people’s fundamental rights, especially the right to religious liberty. This is the source of our common efforts against discrimination on the grounds of differences of religion, race and color, culture and the like.
Collaboration extends also to the study of the teaching of the Gospel insofar as it is the source of inspiration for all Christian activity…”(no.61) The synod document notes that the principles it follows are found in CSTs from Rerum Novarum to the letter Octogesima Adveniens . There is a remarkable connection between the one of its most significant paragraphs and the one which
mentions “salvation by deeds of justice.”(no.56) The former is the phrase of ‘Action for justice as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel’(no.6) which is closely interrelated to the latter: In the better understanding of the world situation provided by Gaudium et Spes, “Christian works out their salvation by deeds of justice.” The document clearly mentions the principle ideas such as human rights, international justice, the right to development, political action found in Pacem in Terris, Mater et Magistra, Populorum Progressio , and Octogesima Adveniens respectively influenced by the Gospel itself and Vatican II, particularly Gaudium et Spes . It also put much emphasis on peace by saying that “It is absolutely necessary that international conflicts should not be settled by war, but that other methods better befitting human nature should be found. Let a strategy of non-violence be fostered also, and let conscientious objection be recognized and regulated by law in each nation.” (no.65)
In spite of the innovative character of Asian theology, it is a fact that the reflections have remained internal to the Church and its pastoral needs. In the context of multireligious and multicultural societies with fast transformation in societies, economies, cultural life, theology needs to interrogate itself regarding its responsibilities to the larger world. Traditional theology tends to cut everything – the world, society and culture – to its size, reminding us of the Procrustean bed! Asian theological reflection needs to be open-ended and should begin from the world. It will endeavour to respond with others to the question and issues thrown up from the life-situation of the people and societies. Such a theology can be characterized as public theology which needs to be promoted more and more.
To understand more closely what is meant by public theology, it is better to see what it is not and how it distinguishes itself from other related forms of theologies. Firs of all, we need to draw a distinction between theology for public life and public theology. The first one speaks about faith-motives for involving oneself as a believer in the affairs of the world — politics, economy, culture, violence, war and peace etc. An example of this is Gaudium et Spes of Vatican II. Another variant of this is political theology.
Public theology is related to but different from liberation theology. This latter theology broke the privatization of religion and made its way forcefully into the public. However, the motivation for praxis of liberation came from Christian roots, and the methodology and tools of analysis were by and large Marxian in character. Public theology incorporates the concerns of liberation theology but its approach is much wider and its premises lie in the kind of relationship of religion
to common good. Today, the pursuit of common good calls for the praxis of liberation.
Public theology is also different from a theology relating to public life pursued by Protestant neo-orthodoxy, as for example by John Milbank and Max Stackhaus. Here we have a theology of Barthian inspiration, rather than a contextual theology adapting to the culture and society. This theology relates with the public life so as to make it conform to transcendental values, to the Kingdom of God, to God, who is “totally the other” and who challenges and judges the world.
Public theology refers to a theology that focuses on questions and issues that are public in nature and touches everyone across borders. In the process it frees itself from doctrinal moorings that have no or little bearing on the shared life and history with others in a society or polity. Since this needs to be done differently depending on the concrete situation, public theology cannot but be contextual. Public theology culls out from tradition and sacred sources those elements and insights that could contribute in every context to the wellbeing of the people and of nature. This is a theology which has a language that is inherently dialogical and is ready to cooperate with all forces contributing to common good.
Public theology is an invitation at the same time to reconsider the relationship of religion to the public realm; it is as well an invitation to rethink the dominant conceptions of secularism. Public
theology implies two general considerations which are interrelated and yet are distinct: On the one hand it implies state-religion relationship. It also implies the relationship of religion to civil society. Religion in relation to public sphere involves both these aspects.
The construction of public theology – whether in the East or West – depends on how these questions are addressed. We shall begin from the case of the West.
In the last couple of decades there has taken place a shift in the perception of the relationship between religion and public life. With the fall of the thesis of secularization and the progressive abandonment of the thesis of religion as private, there have come about new equations between religion and the public life. I need not elaborate how the explanation of secularization got discredited following closer scrutiny of the religious phenomena. What I intend to do is to examine two most significant voices in the West whose position on the relationship of religion to public life has become the core issue in public theology and at the same time most vigorously discussed and debated.
Juergen Habermas: We could identity three phases in his thinking in relation to religion. a) Suppression of religion through communicative reason b) co-existence of religion and reason c) cooperation of both for upholding the gains of modernity. The new turn to the third phase can be discerned in his works since 2001: The Future of Human Nature, On Faith and Knowledge, Between Naturalism and Religion. In the third phase of his thinking, Habermas shows his openness to the contribution of religion to the public sphere, challenging the claims of a narrow secularity. He notes:
Secularized citizens may neither fundamentally deny that religious convictions may be true nor reject the right of their devout fellow citizens to couch their contributions to public discussions in religious language.
By way of example, I may adduce here how Habermas shows the importance of Christian doctrine of creation for the strengthening of human dignity and rights. He also sees its importance in addressing biomedical technological issues such as the genetic enhancement. Theological beliefs could throw light on this intricate question and contribute to the present and future wellbeing of humanity.
John Rawls: He speaks of “comprehensive doctrines” and “overlapping consensus”. By comprehensive doctrines he means a system of thought or explanation that claims to give a full-range and comprehensive explanation of the world, nature, society, etc. their origin, value, their future, etc. In simple terms, comprehensive doctrine means a theory of everything. Religions are habituated to present such a theory of everything – about God, humans, the world and so on.
To be able to understand Rawl’s political theory and his conception of the role of religion in relation to public life, we need to grasp how he transforms Kant’s ideal of moral autonomy (Critique of Practical Reason), in an inter-subjective manner. Here is a question of abiding by those laws and arrangements that find acceptance among all concerned in a polity on the basis of their public use of reason. Moral autonomy is not simply to be free from coercion; it has a
necessary reference to the other and to the public. This moral autonomy is linked to political autonomy. A religious group is politically autonomous not simply when it is free from any coercion, but when it is able to abide by what the common good requires and what finds acceptance among all concerned in a particular society. In this sense, religious freedom today needs to be defined not in isolation from the other, but in relation to the other and to what
concerns the general good of all concerned.
Religion and Public Reason
In the context of the discussion on public theology, one of the questions that has of importance is the relationship of religion to public reason. Here is an issue which allows a wide interpretation but also raises many intricate questions. Contribution to public reason means that religious traditions take a distance from their internal convictions and belief-systems and have before them the general interest of the people. It would involve a kind of translation into secular language those beliefs which have public significance. The beliefs and convictions held by religious groups require to be supported by public reason, if they are to have any role in public life. We could, for example, take the creation narrative to support the equality of woman which is a secular issue in the polity; or the same creation story to support the cause of human rights because according to Christian belief human beings are endowed with dignity since they have been created in the image of God. The question then is, should religions be denuded of their beliefs to reach a ground of neutrality where they could enter into conversation with other similar religious groups. Don’t we loose, in this way, the richness the religious beliefs and myths contain. Why not the religions carry these with them and enter into conversation with others, and thus through a mutuality that touches deeper chords reach consensus and understanding? This is a point which many Western theologians (Linda Hoggen, Nigel Biggar and others) contend
when responding to the position of Rawls and Habermas in relation to public reason or overlapping consensus. Linda Hogan notes, for example: “[A] fundamental flaw in the idea of public reason lies in the manner in which it requires the speaker and listener to believe both the self and the other to be, or to act as though he or she is “rootless’’.
The Normative and the Factual
The positions of Rawls and Habermas are at the level of the normative, and are abstracted from concrete context. They follow a procedural reasoning in determining the relationship of religion and public sphere. But the factual reality does not correspond to this theorizing. As a matter of fact, in many European countries, there is the so-called established religions. The clearest example is that of U.K. There the bishops form part of the House of Lords. Similarly in the Scandinavian countries Lutheranism is the established religion. In these cases as well as in Germany, Belgium and Holland what we find is a kind of accommodation of the religious and a continuing role in the public sphere. It is expressed in different forms, such as state-funding for educational institutions managed by Catholics, Protestants, Calvinists, etc. Collection of tax for the Church by the state.
ALL Forum invites you to join our Webinar for Peace in East & South East Asia
Conflict and oppression in the 21 st century has taken newer forms. Systems of Law, Order and Justice which were once the focal point for Nation building and prosperity have slowly evolved into oppressive mechanisms which control the liberty of fellow citizens in numerous ways.
In the light of such situations it is evident that we as Church must strongly participate in building peace for the world especially in Asia, inspired by the 1971 Synod of Bishops – ‘Justice in the World’ document (para 6), which says “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, or, in other words, of the Church’s mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation.”
Therefore, Asian Lay Leaders (ALL) Forum aspires to organize a one day webinar for peace in Hong Kong, Myanmar, Philippines, Korean Peninsula and the said region by commemorating the 50th anniversary of the important document ‘Justice in the World’, which requires the Church to be renewed and also reformed. It is so that we invite all the peace-loving people in Asia to understand deeply the situation unfolding in East and South East Asia and what role the Laity and Church must play in order to promote peace and justice
Join us on November 20, 2021 (Saturday) 5:00-8:00 pm Philippines time (GMT+8). Click the button below to register!
God created man and woman alike, in his own image. But discrimination of women has become naturally accepted phenomena almost all over the globe. The status of women in Asia is all the
An Analysis of the Causes
The culture of domination, marginalization and exclusion which embodies ideas, beliefs, values, traditions, rules, norms, perspectives (ideologies) that prefer males/sons has been styled the culture of patriarchy. Through dominating social structures men own, control and manage financial, intellectual and ideological resources as well as the labor, fertility and sexuality of women, and thus perpetuate gender discrimination. Such a culture produces stereotyped notions of how a woman or man should behave (in words and actions), whereby they themselves become transmitters of the above value system. Consequently women also become both victims and victimizers.
The process of globalization which is marketcentered and profit driven, leads to further exploitation of women as cheap labour resulting in the increasing pauperization of women. Fundamentalism and communalism reinforce the subjugation of women to men, suppress women’s movements by dividing women along religious lines and intensify violence against women.
Situation of Women in the Church and Society
The socio-cultural situation of women should not be understood in the same way among all social classes and ethnic groups especially among the marginalised and the oppressed. It has its lights and its shadows. Though we have examples of empowered women in leadership positions and role-models like Blessed Mother Theresa and Saint Alphonsa, nevertheless the reality of women of all sections reveals instances of domestic and societal violence on young girls and women. Depending on the regions, female feticide, infanticide, rape, molestation, kidnapping, abduction, battering, dowry deaths, murdering, trafficking for sex and slavery exist even today.
Women of the marginalized groups such as dalits, tribals, indigenous people, migrants, victims of HIV AIDS, backward castes and minorities suffer much due to poverty, illhealth, lack of access to literacy and appropriate knowledge and lack of hygiene and potable water. In addition, they are being displaced from their lands and livelihoods. They suffer systemic and structural violence that enslave them and dehumanize them economically, socio-politically and religio-culturally.
Gender discrimination has negative effects on boys and men as well. It damages their psyche and increases the incidence of morbidity and crime among them. Relations of distrust, conflict, competition and many forms of subtle abuse emerge instead of those rooted in values of caring, sharing, compassion, mutual respect, collaboration and partnership. Such discrimination thus has negative consequences on human relations.
It is noticed that the structures which facilitate collaborative partnership between women and men as well as clergy and laity needs improvement. In 1992, the CBCI General Assembly stated, “with a sense of sorrow we must admit that the women feel discriminated against, even in the Church”. In the decisionmaking and the consultative structures like the Parish Pastoral Council, Diocesan Pastoral Council, Diocesan Finance Committee which are canonically advocated structures in the Church, the presence of women is inadequate.
In spite of the great contribution of lay women in spheres of education, health care, etc., their potentials are yet to be sufficiently tapped in the administrative and executive roles, as well as theological, liturgical, pastoral and missionary apostolates of the Church.
Signs of Hope
In the midst of this distressing situation there are signs of hope. The Church has been spearheading several initiatives to bring about positive changes in the life situation of women and girls. From the time of the early Christian missionaries who placed emphasis on the education of both girls and boys, through its multiple interventions in the fields of welfare, education, health and the empowerment process to organize women, the Catholic Church has played a prominent role to improve the status of women.
Besides the Church and ecumenical bodies, government and non governmental organizations, trade unions and social movements have played a significant role in facilitating change. Through its policies, for example, the National Policy on the Empowerment of Women, and legislative measures, the Government has contributed to the cause of women. By signing international declarations and conventions such as Human Rights, Convention on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and Violence against Women, the Government of India has taken a stand in favour of gender justice.
As a result, many women leaders both lay and religious are emerging in the public sphere such as local governance and political leadership. The process of generation of counter-cultural literature and media material, and the revival of subjugated memories of resistance by women against oppression and exploitation are influencing change in mindsets of people to a greater or lesser extent across space and culture. The promotion of appropriate ecclesiastical ministries among
women in the Church is another sign of their participation in the mission of the Church.
The Vision of Christ
Situating the teachings and actions of Christ in the context of Palestinian Judaism, we see how the evangelists not only highlight Jesus’ concern for women, but also his radical redefining of their place and role in their society. In a culture where women were seen only in relation to men, Christ not only liberated them from their oppressive traditions but upheld their dignity e.g. the Samaritan woman (Jn.4:7-42) and Mary and Martha (Jn.11:20-40). He used the life-experiences of women as a paradigm of God’s love and Christian discipleship for all: woman and lost coin, woman and the dough and woman at birth pangs. Even at his death and burial, women were
among those who bore testimony. Jesus entrusted to the women that they announce the Good News of Resurrection to his disciples.
St. Paul reiterates the equality of men and women (Gal.3:28) and continues to refer to many exemplary women. The early Christian Community was sustained by the deep faith of women who shared in the apostolic ministry e.g. Priscilla, Lydia, Phoebe, etc.
In her teaching, the Church continues to uphold the dignity of women, uniqueness of motherhood (Letter to Women, 2), and the complementarity and reciprocity between men and women.
Reflection: What do we need in order to practice Integral Ecology?
By Susana Sitaresmi Kusuma Wardhani
Shallom Asian Lay Leaders Forum,
Recently, we are faced with one complex crisis in our world which is both social and enviromental. Actually, human development, peace and ecological issue is interconnected, we can not separated one from another and Laudato Si combines human development and peace and ecology as integral ecology.
Environmental destruction by human beings always creates significant economic discrepancy with the poor, we must understand that there is a relationship between “the cry of the earth” and “the cry of the poor people”. Therefore, it is very important for us to undertake development only by considering the true ecological approach and emphasizing on integral ecology.
In order to create this new model of development we need to focus on two key things. We must first focus on ecological community conversion. This conversion calls us for a number of attitudes, gratitude and also feeling gratefulness towards GOD. The second one is to develop a sense of ecological spirituality or commitment which recognizes that “each creature reflects something of God and has a message to convey to us”. This is exactly what Pope Francis asks all of us Christians to recognize and to live fully this dimension of our conversion with an action plan, to start from something as little as a family, a church, parishes, school, college, health care, farms and province. Thank you