At the JPIC day at Roehampton on 6th October, entitled “Am I My Brother's Keeper?”, John Battle came and spoke to us about justice issues, solidarity, engagement and hope. Or perhaps, more accurately, John came and spoke to us about people. He told us stories, about the people who live in his own local community of West Leeds, stories about his neighbours and also his neighbours’ stories, because fundamentally that's what justice issues, solidarity, engagement and hope are all about: people.
Indeed, he highlighted the importance of ensuring that a narrative is kept to our Social System, he talked about viewing the revenue generated by taxes as a common kitty, there for those who need it, and the need to remember that the purpose of all law-making and budgeting is to help and serve human beings. And it's inspiring hearing John talk about people because he really looks past the exterior and sees the person within, he never writes anyone off, be they the prisoner or the banker.
So what can we learn from John about Justice, Peace and the Integrity of creation? Many things, but here are two:
- To be women of relationships, with all people. The lack of local community structures is a real threat to our society. Community is made up of relationships; relationships are made from small everyday conversations with those around us, those we encounter.
- To receive the hope we have been given and share it: The absence of hope is one of the most destructive forces in our world. We need to be women who hope in God and in the infinite possibilities he can do in and through people.
May our fostering of relationships and sharing of hope lead to a companionship of empowerment, through which the Holy Spirit can act to build the kingdom of God.
A few words after a great day...
Let the world set our agenda, let our neighbouthood set our agenda: we are neighbours but are we brothers and sisters? Every person matters. "Contemplation is a long look at reality" - we need contemplation and need to challenge the situation.
We have an insatiable desire for story and we had a veritable feast of stories from John Battle.
His stories came from the people he meets day by day in Leeds. All of them illustrated the economic plight in which we find ourselves, and in the solutions arising from the people, from below, not from above. Perhaps the best illustration of this is the Centre built by the SVP in Leeds (ordinary people) There is a debt counselling service, second-hand clothing and furniture, classes in basic skills etc on hand.
Two points arose for our provincial response -
“Happiness where we are at our present address”, love of the people we rub shoulders with. For example, we are served in Duchesne by Islamic women, Buddhist women, Christian women and men and women of no faith at all. Do I embrace each one as brother and sister?
Stability in a world where one’s job and one’s neighbour is never the constant it used to be, hospitality and community, are all sought after by today’s people. The love of God is released in us in ways we can never know. A re-structuring of society, a new interpretation of the narrative of our day, can only follow a spiritual revolution. The stories we heard, like those told by Jesus, influence the way we live.
A great day, bringing hope to our world!
We are people of the journey and the world needs to re-plan its journey. World markets are in competition and social systems have been squeezed out in the process. Aquinas argued that we are not allowed to write anyone off. We are all members of the human race – no-one is rubbish, and each one’s humanity is affected by everyone else’s humanity. Nobody must be left out. We need to think and act locally and globally at the same time. Have we got a moral obligation to know our neighbours? Yes, every person matters. 1 billion people are still living in poverty. We need to ask the questions of poverty exists, not only do the ambulance work of responding to immediate needs. We cannot sustain our current standing of living. Society is losing structures of solidarity. We need to re-build society from the street upwards. When he visited Ghana a woman in the community asked him how the process of participatory budgeting was developing in the UK. He had never heard of it until then.
When John Battle gave a talk to business people in Leeds, one of them approached him afterwards and offered 10 jobs to people coming out of prison. It is important not to write anyone off, i.e. including the bankers / business people.
Subsidiarity and solidarity need to go hand in hand, or you could end up only helping those people you ‘like’.
How do we develop hope? How do we take risks? Listen in the quietest corners. Engage in one-to-one conversations & sharing of stories. The love of God is released through us.