On the evening of Tuesday 26th Feb 2019 we had a visit from Fr Xavier Jeyaraj SJ . He spoke to an audience of about 40 on the theme of Social Justice and the Care of Creation. This is my personal reflection on some of the things he said to us.
“We are all connected and belong to one another.” We often deny this by speaking of ‘them ‘ as if those others we refer to are irrelevant, different, and inferior to ourselves.
“We are all leaders.” We often have mixed feelings about that. We want to be listened to but shrink from speaking out. We think we are right but we do not follow through and act.
“Where are we?” The state of the world is far from perfect. We are beset with issues including:
- Extraordinary inequalities in the distribution of wealth.
- Over exploitation of natural resources.
- Climate change.
- Exploitation of workers.
- Populism, ‘fake news’, the ‘filter bubble’, avoiding anything that is challenging, uncomfortable or requires critical thought.
- Fear of diversity.
- The rise of the Alt-Right in the USA, European Nationalist Parties and Extremism.
“We need Leaders of Hope.” Democracy must be rooted in spirituality, social justice and love.
“What do we need to be Leaders?” We must:
- Be authentic and act with integrity. Remember that we ourselves are flawed, that we personally are sinners in need of forgiveness.
- Think of others. Leaders being the Servants of others.
- Foster leadership in others.
- Listen and be attentive.
- Be prophets, speaking truth to power.
- Be inspiring.
“What can we do?” We can:
- Build an inclusive society.
- Take in realistic positive messages, avoid fear and defeatism.
- Reflect on how we feel and not just what we think.
- Discern, look into difficult issues and work out what is right and wrong. Develop our own spiritual resources and use them critically.
- Be more friendly to the environment.
- Stand alongside the vulnerable. Help those affected by economic and environmental stress.
- Foster the leadership skills of the young.
Fr Xavier gave some simple examples of how we can become more friendly to the environment. For most of us these are a challenge. They sound simple but they are not. Take a simple case – “Use public transport, walk or cycle.” Our reaction is likely to be “Sorry, I don’t have time, it is too far and it is raining so I am going to drive.” We need to think and be creative.
After the talk Fr Xavier took questions. One of them brought us back to what we can do. Earlier Fr Xavier had told a powerful story about a clash of interest between a rich international mining company and villagers in rural India. The question was about how we, who are lucky enough to have a surplus, choose to invest. Do we think about how our money is used? Perhaps we should start there.