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2018 World Day of Social Justice PDF Print E-mail

Sunday 18 February 2018: First Sunday of Lent

He was tempted by Satan, and the angels looked after him

First Sunday of LentAmong the movers and shakers of society social justice comes in and out of favour. Over the last decades it went out of favour. Conventional wisdom had it that business was responsible only to its shareholders, and that it need not, indeed must not, consider its responsibilities to society. Political parties, too, appealed only to sectional interests in their campaigns, devising slogans enshrining the interests of small business, of workers with aspirations and of working families. Except to execrate them they never mentioned the homeless, the unemployed, the destitute or the exiled. They agreed that policies which benefited the very wealthy would by some magic benefit the poor and saw competition as the elixir to personal and social wellbeing. The cure to every economic malady was seen to lie in cutting government expenditure, particularly on programs that benefited the most needy.

World Social Justice Day on 20 February occurs this year at a time when social justice is returning to favour. Bank executives are beginning to own their social responsibilities. Economists are beginning to see inequality as a problem. Low wages of workers are no longer seen as the sign of a productive economy but as a barrier to a prosperous economy. Talk of the common good is no longer seen as out of place but as a powerful idea. Government spending is seen as helpful. Austerity that punishes the poor and the passion for balancing budgets are no longer de rigeur. But often still lacking is a vision of what is necessary to build a just society.

Contributing to the vision that guides Jesuit Social Services are the principles of Catholic social Teaching. They offer the building blocks of a just society. Their central insight is that each human person is precious and unique, and so must always be respected. Respect demands that people not be treated simply as means to an end: workers as a cost in production, for example, or people who seek protection as aliens. It also sees that relationships are all important in human life – we depend on our environment and on one another in everything that we do from being born, making money, to being educated and enjoying technology. Because we depend on one another we are responsible to one another, particularly to the most vulnerable. That responsibility touches us in our domestic life and also in the organisation of the economy. So the making of wealth and the running of business have a social license – they are part of society with a responsibility to society.

For Jesuit Social Services, as for the Catholic tradition that it inherits, symbolism matters. We work with many Indigenous young people and know that when we accompany them we commit ourselves to honour their history and their struggle to find acceptance of their rightful status in Australia. The Apology remains a powerful symbol of that commitment and encourages us to deepen it.

Fr Andrew Hamilton | Image courtesy of Hermano Leon Clipart