Category: Spiritual Reflection

Spiritual Reflection

Accepting The Reign Of God

At one point in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus referred to certain characteristics of a child that should be emulated by those who aspired to enter the kingdom or reign of God. To become the “model citizens” of this kingdom, Jesus, however, did not exactly mean that His followers should be docile, meek and innocent, just as children are. In fact, Jesus was referring to the traits of a child who, devoid of any possessions or title, becomes accepting, obedient, and dependent to what is given to him/her – most especially the gift of the Kingdom of God.

Spiritual Reflection

From The Trenches

Proclaiming the Gospel message is not as simple as picking up a Bible, reading it aloud, and preaching it to those who want to listen. It also entails a change of heart, a radical transformation from the old ways to a newness in Christ. Such power to transform, however, only comes if we allow the Word of our Lord, despite its radical demands, to touch and permeate through our very souls.

Spiritual Reflection

A Call To Freedom

“None of you can be My disciple unless you give up everything you have,” says Jesus (Luke 14:33). What does it mean to give up everything? Is it to be understood literally or only symbolically? The call is universal but it is answered differently. It is a call
to greater freedom or detachment – from goods and people.

Spiritual Reflection

The Better Part

The missionary of the Third Millennium must be a contemplative. This is especially true in the Asian context because of the Eastern tradition of Yoga and Zen. Yet, Christian contemplation is essentially different because it is always a personal encounter with the personal God of the Bible and Jesus is the way to God in the Holy Spirit. It is in contemplation that prayer becomes love.

Spiritual Reflection

The least is the greatest

Jesus’ teachings were indeed considered radical during His time, especially by those who wanted to silence Him or put Him to death. However, His teachings were also a source of confusion among His closest disciples who, at one point of their journey, were thrilled by Jesus’ miracles, but then confounded by His prediction of His death during the next. Again, Jesus offers the image of a child to explain His point, especially those who desire to be first in God’s kingdom.

A Problem Of Governance

Over the past thirty years, the Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN) has worked with many partner organizations (e.g., the Institute for Policy Studies, Action Aid, Jubilee U.S.A., and Catholic affiliated NGOs) in the Washington metropolitan area to influence the policies of the U.S. government that affect Africa.  After analyzing a policy, AFJN and its partners bring elements of the policy that are seen to have negative consequences for Africa to the attention of the United States Congress and/or the State Department.     But the problems faced by Africa are not all dependent on Washington.  After a review and a careful analysis of the issues that AFJN has addressed over the years, the AFJN staff concluded that, although many issues are economic and developmental, the major perennial problem confronting Africa is the problem of faulty governance.  The issues addressed were the negative consequences of the extractive industries, unfair trade practices, land grabs, capital flight, corporate tax evasions, and the endemic conflicts that plague African communities. In one way or another, all of these relate to and interact with the consequences of a lack of good governance.     Africa so rich, so poor. The continent of Africa is perhaps the richest piece of land on earth, given its natural resources – rich fertile land, minerals and bio-diversity. One then wonders why do the people living in the world’s richest continent continue to be the poorest? A close examination reveals that problems relating to failure to serve the common good, to achieve equitable resource distribution, to foster citizens’ participation in the political process, to act with transparency and accountability and to create a basic level of economic justice – all have to do mainly with governance. To address the economic and social problems in Africa, first you must tackle the systemic problems inherent in governance. In effect, the economic challenges or the problems related to poverty and underdevelopment in Africa are symptomatic of something outside the strictly economic sphere.   Getting poorer. A narrow focus on the economy misses the causes of poverty and underdevelopment.  Over the years, many programs, such as the structural adjustment programs (SAP), privatization, and trade liberalization that have the economy as their primary focus, have not only failed to alleviate the problems but have worsened the fortunes of many African countries, making most Africans poorer today than they were twenty or thirty years ago.   Good governance. An essential element of good governance is upholding the common good.  In formulating and implementing laws and policies, political leaders must seek the good of all their citizens.  Laws, policies and procedures for implementation must all be transparent, and leaders must be accountable to their people by enabling robust civil society participation in the governing process, as well as having free and fair elections in “democracies.”     Citizens must participate. Leaders must also uphold the principles of subsidiarity, that is, they must not arrogate to themselves the functions of a lower body.  It is said that “all politics are local”

Arms Treaty: An Achievement Of Peoples’ Power

Sensible people have long recognized that a buildup of weapons often leads to senseless destruction. After the horrors of WW I, there was a movement within the League of Nations to put restrictions on the transfers of weapons across international borders. However, many nations, spurred on by rivalry and territorial ambition, thought it was in their interest to re-arm and build up their military forces. The even greater horrors of WW II were the sad result.  Following WW II, the United Nations was formed to establish a secure peace founded on human rights and mutual respect of nations. The UN Charter gave the Security Council a mandate to prevent a buildup of arms in the interests of global peace and security, but few steps were taken since the permanent members of the Security Council had economic and geopolitical interests conflicting with this goal. The “Cold War” spawned countless conflicts both within nations and between nations. The five permanent members of the Security Council were often actively engaged in fomenting conflict within nations to destabilize them and arming nations and groups for “proxy wars,” such as the Iran-Iraq conflict, and the countless “civil wars” in Africa and Latin America. Tens of millions of people lost their lives and property, and millions became refugees or internally displaced persons who were forced to flee from their homes.  People around the world, recognizing the folly of actions that foster endless conflict, began to clamor for change. In November 1993, the European Union, through the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OCSE), established a set of principles to govern arms exports on the basis of eight previously established criteria. However, the implementation of these principles was entirely voluntary.  Eventually a civil society movement, based on humanitarian and human rights concerns, arose to demand binding instruments. In 1993-94 representatives of Amnesty International, Saferworld, the World Development Movement and the British American Security Information Council – joined, some years later, by Oxfam U.K. and Ploughshares Canada – created a draft proposal for a legally binding “Code of Conduct” on international arms transfers for member states of the European Union. In 1998, the EU did establish a Code of Conduct for Arms Exports. The movement put reasonable limits to international arms transfers which spread and, eventually, became worldwide.   The role of a small country In October 1996, former Costa Rican President and 1987 Nobel Peace Prize winner Óscar Arias Sánchez invited fellow Nobel Peace Laureates, including Mikhail Gorbachev and Amnesty International, to attend the “State of the World Forum” that he convened in San Francisco. A revised International Code of Conduct was the eventual fruit of this initiative. Two years later, in the U.S., Senators John Kerry and Cynthia McKinney promoted a law mandating the U.S. President to negotiate an international agreement on arms transfers. However, the U.S. became and has remained the largest manufacturer and exporter of weapons. In November 2000, President Arias, together with other Nobel Peace Laureates and NGOs, asked Costa Rica’s UN

The Church’s Best Kept Secret

Throughout the history of the Church, saints, religious communities and dedicated communities of lay people, such as the Beguines of Northern Europe, generously cared for the poor and the sick of society. This service was understood as an expression and continuation of the charity of Christ who healed the sick as part of His public ministry. Jesus instructed His disciples to care for others as a manifestation of their love for Him as He identifies Himself with all those in need (Cf. Mt. 25:31–46; Mk. 16:17–18). However, although bishops and popes sometimes responded vigorously to particular acts of obvious injustice, until recent times, there was no systematic effort to analyze the structures of society in order to address the root causes of injustice and extensive suffering. There are many reasons for this. Apart from changes of ruling dynasties, changes in society normally came very slowly through gradual evolution, and so many thought that the basic structures of society were immutable, almost as if they were divinely ordained. A good many of the bishops and popes were from the nobility and were themselves in possession of extensive landholdings. The pope was ruler of the Papal States in what is now Italy. Their sympathies and alliances were often with the wealthy and powerful, rather than with the peasants.  What changed? From the 13th century, Europe became progressively more urbanized; society was no longer simply agricultural. In the cities, commerce, banking and universities established new economic bases for society. The American and French Revolutions, at the end of the 18th century, eventually changed the perception that the structures of society were immutable. The industrial revolution very rapidly brought about sweeping social changes, including the creation of a new class of the working poor whose work was often dangerous and whose lives were spent in misery. Activists began to analyze the causes of this new misery. The Communist Manifesto of 1848 condemned private property and the evils of unfettered industrial capitalism, calling for class struggle to end injustice. In many cities of the 19th century Europe, there were attempts to overthrow the ruling classes and create communes. Obviously, this frightened the ruling classes. The institutional Church failed to respond to the excesses of unbridled capitalism and was losing the loyalty of the working class in Europe. In 1870, Pope Pius IX lost control of the Papal States and the institutional Church had an opportunity to reconsider its position in society. Unfortunately, Pius IX bemoaned the loss of the Papal States and proved incapable of taking advantage of the Church’s new freedom to terminate its reliance on worldly power and wealth in order to take stock of the new situation and to respond vigorously to the needs of impoverished urban workers.    A call to social solidarity However, his successor, Pope Leo XIII, was aware of the new social realities brought about by the industrial revolution. With the encouragement of many bishops, Leo responded to the plight of exploited urban workers with the 1891 encyclical,

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