Archives February 3, 2022

Vatican II View of Culture and Its Implications for Peace

By Felix Wilfred

One way for theology to contribute to peace is to take further the important teaching of Vatican II on culture and draw out its implications for the promotion of peace. The colonial period was characterized by an evolutionary and hierarchical understanding of culture. Accordingly, some cultures were viewed as superior and developed, whereas others — those of the colonized peoples — were looked down as inferior and needing development. Thanks to the contribution of anthropological studies, Vatican II refused to entertain any such evolutionary and hierarchical understanding of culture. Rather, it saw cultures as a deeply human reality, each one with its own unique characteristics.

What we have, then, are a plurality of cultures, every one of them different, but none of them superior or inferior to others. I think the plurality of cultures so clearly acknowledged and affirmed by the Council cannot be deployed only to contexualize Christianity. Vatican II, after having presented a larger and humanistic view of culture, turned it to the advantage of the Church for its programme of inculturation. But the point is culture has a larger role to play in humanizing the world and society and in fostering mutual understanding. It offers among other things ways and means to resolve differences in human and societal relationships. Promotion of peace at the local level needs to be nourished by these sources and latch on to the concrete strategies each culture has devised and transmitted from generation to generation. The local culture may have also important lessons for the construction of peace in other societies and at the global level.

Culture and Theology of Creation

A theology from above would view culture in relation to economy of salvation. Culture needs to conform to God’s Word, instead of God’ Word coming in encounter with culture, some would argue. On the other hand, a theology of creation would view culture as a reality of human collective life and having value in itself: If God acts through human agency and medium in different areas of life, this applies as well to the case of peace. The evil of violence is caused by human beings, and God brings about peace through the same human beings by letting them use positive means and ways at their disposal. If violence and conflicts have existed from the beginning of humanity, the same humanity has also found the means to resolve conflicts and bring to an end hatred and violence.

Human interrelationships and encounters are shaped by culture, and the ways in which people relate are culturally embedded. It is easy then to understand why when ruptures take place in these relationships and manifests themselves in conflicts and violence, the same culture is crucial in bringing about healing touch, reconciliation and peace. Thus it makes sense to investigate the cultural potential among every people for cessation of hostilities and entry into a process of peace and reconciliation.

Mystical Approach to Culture – Way to Peace

I already referred to Nicholas of Cusa. In his work “Peace of Faith”, he sees harmony of religions resulting from a vision. It is remarkable that at a time of great religious conflicts, he was able to relate the warring religions from a mystical perspective and see their ultimate unity.

It happened that after several days – perhaps because of long continued meditation—a vision was revealed to this zealous man. From it he concluded that of a few wise men familiar from their own experience with all such differences which are observed in religions throughout the world, a single easy harmony could be found and through it a lasting peace established by appropriate and true means.1)

Today, even as we try to deepen the mystical dimension called for in inter-religious understanding, we need to also see the mystical dimension in the plurality of cultures, and in the harmony of cultures. Mysticism breaks the barriers, borders and leads us to see greater unity, and it has the power to make us see things in a different light.

That applies to different cultures. They do not become rivals, but are _ bonded together as manifold expressions of a single humanity united with the divine mystery. The sense of unity and harmony helps us also discover in each culture, though circumscribed by particularities of geography and history, something that surpasses these, something “that relates it at a different plane with other cultures. It helps us learn how each culture promotes and sustains peace, and the resources it . possesses for this goal. This mystical vision of cultures could be assisted by such concrete practices as inter-cultural communication.

Ref:

1) Nicholas of Cusa, De Pace Fidei (1453) chapter I.

HUMAN DEVELOPMENT with special reference to Charity in Truth (Benedict XVI, 2009)

By Fr. Desmond De’Sousa CSsR

At a distance of over forty years Populorum Progressio deserves to be considered “the Rerum Novarum of the present age”, observes Pope Benedict XVI shedding light upon humanity’s journey towards unity. Only within the perspective of eternal life, can human progress in this world have breathing-space. “It is the primordial truth of God’s love that makes it possible to hope for a “development of the whole man and of all men,” to hope for progress “from less human conditions to those which are more human”, obtained by overcoming the difficulties that are inevitably encountered along the way.

Paul VI’s vision of development had the goal of rescuing peoples, first and foremost, from hunger, deprivation, endemic diseases and illiteracy. “From the economic point of view, this meant their active participation, on equal terms, in the international economic process; from the social point of view, it meant their evolution into educated societies marked by solidarity; from the political point of view, it meant the consolidation of democratic regimes capable of ensuring freedom and peace.” To what extent have Paul VI’s expectations been fulfilled by the model of development adopted in recent decades? Pope John Paul II had already observed, the demarcation line between rich and poor countries is no longer as clear as it was at the time of Populorum Progressio.

The world’s wealth is growing in absolute terms, but inequalities are on the increase. In rich countries, new sectors of society are succumbing to poverty and new forms of poverty are emerging. In poorer areas some groups enjoy a sort of “super-development” of a wasteful and consumerist kind which forms 88an unacceptable contrast with the ongoing situations of dehumanizing deprivation.

After the collapse of the Communist countries of Eastern Europe, Pope John Paul II (Centesimus Annus, 1991) called for a complete re-examination of development. This has been achieved only in part, and it is still a real duty that needs to be discharged. Populorum Progressio assigned a central, but not exclusive, role to “public authorities”. In our own day, the State itself has to address the limitations to its sovereignty imposed by the new context of international trade and finance, which is characterized by increasing mobility both of financial capital and means of production, both material and immaterial.

This new context has altered the political power of States. The lessons of the economic crisis (2008), directly involves the State’s public authorities in correcting errors and malfunctions. It seems more realistic to re-evaluate their role and their powers, and remodeled so as to enable them to address the challenges of today’s world.

From the social point of view, systems of protection and welfare of the poor, already present in many countries in Paul VI’s day, are finding it hard and could find it even harder in the future, to pursue their goals of true social justice in today’s profoundly changed “neo-liberal” environment. The Church’s social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum for the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honored today even more than in the past. This signifies “a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level. The mobility of labour, associated with a climate of deregulation, is an important phenomenon with certain positive aspects, because it can stimulate wealth production and cultural exchange.”

On the cultural plane, in Pope Paul VI’s day, the cultures were relatively well defined and had greater opportunity to defend themselves against attempts to merge them into one. Today the possibilities of interaction between cultures have increased significantly, giving rise to new opportunities for intercultural dialogue. But there is a distinct danger of dominating cultures reducing weaker cultures and persons into enslavement and manipulation, e.g. with what is called the “Coco-colaization” of local culture, the McWorld (west) – various multinational corporations like McDonald, McKintosh – confronting the Jihad world (east) – battles in the name of God..

This anti-poor, neo-liberal mentality provoked Pope Benedict to affirm, “The poor are not to be considered a ‘burden’, but a resource, even from a purely economic point of view.” One of the most striking aspects of development in the present day is the important question of respect for life, which cannot in any way be detached from questions concerning the development of peoples. Openness to life is at the centre of true development. When a society moves towards the denial or suppression of life, it no longer finds the necessary motivation and energy to strive for the common good. Another aspect very closely connected to development: the denial of the right to religious freedom. God is the guarantor of true human development.

Having created the human person in God’s own image, God also establishes the transcendent dignity of men and women and feeds their innate yearning to “be more”. “In the context of cultural, commercial or political relations, it also sometimes happens that economically developed or emerging countries export [their] reductive vision of the person and [their] destiny to poor countries.

This is the damage that “super-development” causes to authentic development when it is accompanied by “moral underdevelopment”. The significant new elements in the picture of the development of peoples today in many cases demand new solutions. It requires deeper reflection on the meaning of the economy and its goals, as well as a profound and far-sighted revision of the current model of development, so as to correct its dysfunctions and deviations. “Profit is useful if it serves as a means towards an end that provides a sense both of how to produce it and how to make good use of it. Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty.” This is demanded, in any case, by the earth’s state of ecological health. “Above all it is required by the cultural and moral crisis, the symptoms of which have been evident for some time all over the world.”

More than forty years after Populorum Progressio, its basic theme regarding the meaning of authentic human development remains an open question. It is made all the more acute and urgent by the principal new feature has been the commonly known as globalization – explosion of worldwide interdependence. “The ferocious pace at which it has evolved could not have been anticipated. Originating within economically developed countries, this process by its nature has spread to include all economies. It has been the principal driving force behind the emergence from underdevelopment of whole regions, and in itself it represents a great opportunity.

Nevertheless, without the guidance of charity in truth, this global force could cause unprecedented damage and create new divisions within the human family. Hence charity and truth confront us with an altogether new and creative challenge, one that is certainly vast and complex. It is about broadening the scope of reason and making it capable of knowing and directing these powerful new forces, animating them within the perspective of that “civilization of love” whose seed God has planted in every people, in every culture”(n.33).

What We Feel on the Eve of the One-Year Anniversary of the Military Coup

By Joseph Thang Ki

We are very worried because the suffering of the people even after one year after the military coup is growing enormously. The lives of our people is like walking the path of suffering. It was transformed from a beautiful garden of Eden into a Calvary massacre. Some Church leaders are with the people and trying to provide humanitarian assistance as well as urging all parties concerned to follow the path of peace and reconciliation but Majority of Church leaders still remain silent and that’s why the faithful in Myanmar are not very much satisfied with them and are questioning the stand of Catholic Church Leaders on the suffering people of Myanmar.

Actually we are in an unacceptable situation. People’s lives have been devastated by intense conflict and devastation. Towns, Villages and houses are often burnt down by the military. According to the World Food Program (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) the number of refugees has risen to 300,000 and that around a million innocent people are finding it difficult to get even the basic needs such as food because the whole country is really at war.

Even the Churches were bombed and destroyed. The number of refugees in the Christian- majority areas such as Chin state and Kaya state and some regions of Mandalay and Sagaing has also increased significantly. The people of Myanmar are going through a life of destruction as all unjust violence is happening day to day.

Human Fraternity in Todays Context

By Jayani R. Marasinghe

Human Fraternity is an essential element of the society. It seeks to promote cultural and religious tolerance and it focuses on interfaith harmony, dialogue, and mutual respect. The word fraternity is defined as a group of people that share common interests. Fraternity also means the state of mutual support within a group. The people around the world would begin to embrace these ideas. Instead of focusing on our differences we should focus on what we as human beings have in common.

Focusing on the Sri Lankan context, it is possible to present different opinions on Human Fraternity. Concentrating back in history, many instances of the breakdown of human fraternity can be identified in the Sri Lankan context. The most recent incident was the Easter Sunday attack which happened on 21st of April 2019. This attack was carried out by a group of Islamic extremists. As a result, the brotherhood between Christians and Muslims as well as the Sinhala – Islam collaboration was broken.

This incident caused many problems in Sri Lanka due to the estrangement between Sinhala and Islam communities. However, the easter attack has turned in to an event of grief and sadness because the tragedy it caused among the people was not served justice in the court of law. Besides, politic is a major obstacle to human fraternity in Sri Lanka. Politicians seek to break the existing human fraternity in society in order to achieve their goals.

My question is whether the Sri Lankan people are aware of human fraternity? If the answer is no, then what should be done to raise awareness of human fraternity in Sri Lankan context?

It is important to write about Pope Francis’s third encyclical called “Fratelli Tutti”. Fratelli Tutti means “all brothers and sisters” and is taken from the Admonitions of Saint Francis of Assisi. It turns the world upside down, placing human dignity at the center. This encyclical calls for the creation of a new kind of solidarity to tackle the crises the world is currently facing.

Pope Francis calls on us all to play our part in building peace, human fraternity and to focus on becoming a neighbor to others in particular to welcome migrants, and to resist racism, prejudice and discrimination.  Fratelli Tutti calls us to work together to develop a true understanding of human fraternity. Teaching such ideas from the grassroots to the upper echelons will enable the preservation of human fraternity.

Towards Human Fraternity

By Neilan D’souza

Dear Readers, in commemoration of the International Day of Human Fraternity and World Day of Social Justice ALL Forum intends to publish this issue of E-Newsletter by strongly emphasising that Human Fraternity is crucial to establish peace, harmony and justice throughout the world.

This New Year 2022 already seems to be headed down a path of jeopardy. Serious political tensions arising around the world involving super powers aligning troops on the brink of war between Russia and Ukraine, North Korea resuming testing of Nuclear missiles and advancement of destructive machines, Uyghur crisis, China – Taiwan conflict, Myanmar Military crisis and numerous conflicts taking place elsewhere.

Alongside these tensions we are also living our daily lives with growing gaps between people of various faiths mainly due to political propaganda, fundamentalism and religious extremism, all polluting good teachings of every religion and its pluralistic ways of living in harmony. It is very sad that in modern times where knowledge, communication, technology and infrastructure has advanced to its highest point than ever before we have regressed to selfish and fundamentailstic practices, being concerned only about ourself and those who belong to our own faith.

We need to ask ourself how we could come out of this and move towards achieving Human Fraternity. How we must learn to respect and accept our neighbours the way Christ has taught us and how we must build a fraternal society by bringing together believers of all faiths and practice the core teachings which is to: care for creation, being inclusive, spreading harmony, being restorative and practicing peace.

As we commemorate the International Day of Human Fraternity, let us commit to do more to promote cultural and religious tolerance, understanding and dialogue.”

António Guterres
UN Secretary-General