CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 8 December 2018

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Let every day be a day of social justice

On 26 November 2007, the United Nations' General Assembly declared February 20 to be the World Day of Social Justice. The theme for this year's observance was Workers on the Move: the Quest for Social Justice.  
 
The problems of migration and people forced out of their homeland in search of a decent living has a history that dates back to Old Testament times. According to the International Labour Organisation, today there are an estimated 258 million international migrants and roughly 150 million are migrant workers.
 
Both the Old and New Testaments tell compelling stories of refugees forced to flee because of oppression. Exodus tells the story of the chosen people, Israel, who were victims of bitter slavery in Egypt. 
 
They were utterly helpless by themselves, but with God's powerful intervention they were able to escape and take refuge in the desert. For 40 years they lived as wanderers with no homeland of their own. Finally, God settled them on the land that they could finally call home.
 
Since then, God commanded his people to have special care for the alien: "You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for him as for yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt" (Leviticus 19:33-34). 
 
The New Testament narrates the story of Joseph and Mary's escape to Egypt with their newborn son, Jesus. Our Saviour himself lived as a refugee because his own land was not safe. Later during his public ministry Jesus reiterates command to love and care for the stranger: "For I was hungry and you gave me food, … a stranger and you welcomed me" (Matthew 25:35).
 
The Bible has been the greatest source of inspiration for the promotion of social justice. It is encouraging to know that the term, social justice, was first coined by Jesuit Father Luigi Taparelli (1793 to 1862). Pope Leo XIII who put out the foundational document of Catholic social with his monumental encyclical of 1891, Rerum Novarum (On Capital and Labour) was one of his students.
 
Over the past years, in order to meet the growing demands of our rapidly changing city, Hong Kong has recruited hundreds of thousands of migrant domestic workers, the majority of whom are Filipinos and Indonesians, with other coming from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The problems that many of them encounter vary, from deplorable living conditions to low salarries, as well as long working hours and, in some cases, physical and emotional abuse. 
 
The International Day of Social Justice is already gone, but for a Christian, every day should be a day of social justice. 
 
In what way can one respond to a needy immigrant worker? Exchanging pleasantries with them is already a good start. Learning a few words of the native languages of immigrants who worship in your parish and talking to them in their language could make their day. 
 
Contributing with your time, talent and money for the welfare of the needy immigrants is a long stride. In Christ, the human race is one before God, equal in dignity and rights. jose