By Francis Gonsalves
February 19, 2020
When religionists raise serious concerns about unjust situations in society, they are accused of being too political or overinvolved in matters of secular interest. But which God or religion can remain silent amid the dark repression of human rights and subversion of social justice? What do religions reveal about this?
The Bible focusses on two inseparable aspects of religious practice: vertical and horizontal. The vertical is how one worships God ‘above’, so to say; the horizontal, to one’s relationships with others. To those who worship God but do not work for justice, God says: “Bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me; your appointed festivals I hate,” and adds: “Seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the … [vulnerable].”
God specially protects and provides for single women, orphans and strangers – collectively called the Anawim which, in Hebrew, means the afflicted – since they may experience a lack of supporting partner, parents and friends, respectively. God therefore acts to redress this lacuna. Re-echoing God’s option for the poor, Jesus says: “I have come to bring good news to the poor; to set the oppressed free.”
Hinduism promotes dharma, the basic law of being just and in right relationship with Brahmn, all human beings and other offspring of mother earth through daya: mercy and compassion. Stressing the equality and dignity of all manner of being, the Buddha advocated compassion, teaching that everyone has the right to a fair share of the earth’s resources. Islam bids believers to strive for justice. The Quran teaches: “My Lord enjoins justice”; “Allah loves those who act justly”; and “Do justice, it is nearer to piety.”
Our Pujas, Namaaz, prostrations, temple and church bells, offerings, sacrifices, oil, fire and ashes enable us to invoke, meditate and experience bliss. But religious practices that anaesthetise us from social injustices are dangerous. Indeed, our striving for social justice should neither stem from social compulsions nor political contracts but from a basic premise: everyone surely desires to be respected and to be treated equal to everyone else.
Egoistic as we are, it’s not easy to accept our social responsibility. We could build walls or selectively function within enclaves wherein we avoid seeing the evil results of our actions and the ugliness of social situations. But in the long run we deceive ourselves, since our good is inextricably linked to the common good; and every little venture to promote justice, equality and peace will result in creating a safer, happier world for us all.
The theme of this year’s World Day for Social Justice is: “Closing the Inequalities Gap to Achieve Social Justice.” Thus, let’s first be aware of the gaps. Second, let’s pinpoint who or what has created those gaps. Third, let’s fill up those gaps by building bridges across religious, class, cultural and social divides.
We finally note that our commitment to social causes is not mere socio-political activism but Daridra Narayan Seva: service to God in the poor. Jesus said that our salvation depends on this: “Whatever you do to the least of my sisters and brothers – poor, sick, naked, hungry, imprisoned, excluded, deprived of justice and rights – you do unto me.” May the Creator rejoice at having created you and me to fill manmade gaps.
Tomorrow, February 20, is observed as ‘World Day of Social Justice’
Original Headline: Faith leaders too need to address social injustices
Source: The Times of India