|Justice Reflections - Everyday Justice: Struggles and Possibilities|
Another World is Possible
By Bill Farrell SM from Guatemala City
When I tried to figure out what I “do” for justice in my everyday life I was stymied. I couldn’t find any particular thing that I did on a regular basis to try to bring about a more just world order. I simply try to do good and if there is something that I perceive to be wrong I try to right it.
Over the years as I became aware of the huge gap between the haves and the have-nots in the world I felt challenged to act. I became active in various social justice organizations and projects that seemed to be working to make the world a better place and addressing the difficult questions of our time. My involvement in movements that opposed war, the death penalty, segregation, unfair labor practices, and the School of the Americas became almost second nature to me.
Having had the opportunity as a Marianist to visit Latin America during the recent times of violence and war, I became more personally aware of the reality of the two-thirds world. The ideas of liberation theology and the “preferential option” for the poor spoke to me in a profound way. The example of Archbishop Romero and the Jesuits and the religious women en El Salvador and the suffering peoples in Guatemala made a deep and lasting impression on me. I came to believe that somehow I personally (perhaps unconsciously) was part of the problem that created the situation in Latin America. After a period of time I decided that I needed to become an active participant in the solution to the problems created by unjust social systems. But I found the whole thing very complex and difficult to get a hold of. I was living and enjoying the ”good life” and trying to do good but I came to the conclusion that this was not enough and a Band-Aid approach did little to help our dying world. After reading the gospel anew, I came to the awareness that the two-thirds world was suffering because of the unjust social system that I was part and parcel of. The values of the gospel were largely rejected by this system. I felt powerless when thinking of the major challenges and problems that face our world – Iraq, Afghanistan, poverty, HIV, global warming, anti-immigration xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, materialism, natural disasters etc... The list indeed seems endless and something is really “out of joint” in our world.
I personally felt that my experience of the Christ in our world was lacking integrity. I was doing good things and working for good causes and yet I felt unconscious of the real living person of Christ in our midst. My heart was like a desert. I am certain that I lacked the radical commitment that the gospel calls us to.
By moving to Central America I have found a very powerful presence of the suffering Christ. A new fountain of hope was opened in the desert of my heart. Now I am learning to embrace powerlessness and admit that in the context of extreme violence and poverty that Christ is present and that salvation is possible. There are no quick fixes to our problems here and we are totally at the mercy of world powers that dominate every phase of our existence. The exploitation of these peoples, these lands, began centuries ago and continues today with NAFTA, foreign intervention etc. etc...
The Marianists in Latin America believe that our primary role is to walk with the people and to accompany them on their way to building a better world. To share with the community and especially the poor our hope that another world is possible. We do this by making a preferential option for the poor and by allowing the living Christ to form us anew and to challenge us on a daily basis to convert from our old ways and to become effective agents of the new evangelization.
I am blessed to live with a community of men who make working for the reign of God a priority in their lives. We live in a high risk barrio filled with gangs and prostitution and violence. We experience on a daily basis the problems and reality that confront our neighbors. At times the feeling of powerlessness is all but overwhelming. The natural tendency is to seek relief and to solve the problems and to import money and create programs that, in my opinion, often do more long-range harm than good.
Now, I know, more than ever before in my life that I am not the great problem solver or need fulfiller or the savior of the world. It is refreshing to see so many people here doing all that they can to learn and better themselves and their families. I simply do what I can to help keep the hope alive that “another world is possible” and to try to do good, and when I see that there is something wrong I try to right it. I pray that the folks in the first world, the rich and the powerful, will be mindful of us - so that a just world order will come about. Words are cheap. I pray that charity will blossom into justice and that religious folk will become followers of the poor Christ. And I also maintain the hope that the good Lord will change my heart of stone into one of flesh and that the desert will blossom.Andrea Stiles at 11:20 AM