CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 June 2019

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World Day of Social Justice

Social justice is an underlying principle for peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and between societies and nations. On February 20, the United Nations (UN) observes the World Day of Social Justice in order to focus on the plight of social injustice throughout the world and to press for improvements and solutions. 
 
Through the observance of World Day of Social Justice, the UN aims to create awareness in the international community of poverty eradication, promotion of decent work, gender equity, access to social well being and justice for all. A society or community advances in social justice when it removes all the barriers that people face because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, language, religion, culture, sexuality or disability. 
 
This day will pass as any other day with most of us remaining conveniently ignorant of the call for ensuring justice for our brethren. We become immune to the cries of victims of injustice until we are denied justice. Decades before the UN came up with the concept of a day of social justice, Pope St. Paul VI elaborated on the responsibility of the Church to “keep the eyes of the Church open, her heart sensitive and her hands ready to carry out the work of charity which she is called to accomplish in the world, in order to promote progress in needy regions and international social justice.” 
 
The criteria to promote justice and peace as indicated by the Holy Father are three: keeping the eyes open, having a sensitive heart and hands that are ready to reach out. The call is to keep our eyes open to see the world with love, understanding and compassion; eyes that make no distinction between people, whether for race, culture or social class. Will Hong Kong society be held accountable for turning a blind eye on the pitiable plight of thousands of migrant workers— the modern-day slaves—in this affluent city?   
 
Hong Kong today enjoys a very high level of economic development with per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $297,554 as of 2017. Yet poverty amidst plenty is a serious concern of the day. It is common sense that a high per capita GDP does not represent equal distribution of the wealth and resources among all the heads. In most parts of the world today, the free market system has contributed to the concentration of wealth at the top strata of society at the expense of the poor. 
 
The second criterion for social justice is to have a sensitive heart. It warns people against making oneself the point of reference and being selfishly closed to others, but instead to nurture a positive attitude towards those who are different from us. Migrants and ethnic minorities, working poor and the elderly should find a space of hope and comfort in the Church. 
 
The third on the list is to have hands that are willing to reach out. In the gospels, Jesus’ strongest reproaches are directed against hypocrites, those who only speak but do not do. “If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:15-17). 
 
I have read this passage numerous times, but today the million dollar question is: “Is my faith dead?” The Day of Social Justice calls us to act! jose