Foundational Justice and Peace texts

 

Below is a text taken from the Justice and Peace pack which has been released in the last 12 months by the Justice and Peace commission of the Order. We hope to print more articles from the pack in upcoming editions of Praedicare.

 

The major text for the brethren on Justice and Peace is Chapter 3 of the General Chapter of Avila. However, we do believe that the content is applicable to all branches of the Dominican family. The following is an excerpt concerning the fundamental questions we can ask ourselves as members of the Dominican Order.

1. The Poor

This topic invites us to take a good look at our personal and community lifestyle and begs the following question: what are the signs that prove that my (our) lifestyle is different from that of the lifestyle upheld by the ideals of our consumer-oriented society? With regards to our apostolic commitments and ministry who benefits from my (our) work and with what categories of the population do we choose to work with most often? With regards to our solidarities: exactly how much do we really share with the poor? What type of support do we give them when they organize themselves in order to live more decently or decide to stand up for their rights? Concerning our corporate stances whether they be implicit or explicit: in what types of circumstances do we stand up and publicly defend the rights of the poor (political prisoners, exploitation of peasants, immigrants, unemployed etc.) before governments, laws, social groups, institutions... that continue to oppress them?

2. Justice

This brings us to another series of questions: what is our degree of concern for justice in our own communities and provinces, with one another, in our relationships with other members of the Dominican family, with our collaborators, our employees? Do we really want to do something to change the economic and social structures in place, to change laws by looking at things from the perspective of the poor and the marginalized with their needs? Do we have the courage to speak out against those situations that are unacceptable and against the people that maintain them? Can we say that we honestly support the social groups and organizations that have accepted to take up the fight for social, economic and political justice in favour of the underprivileged?"

Avila also made us more aware of issues of peace, war, nuclear threat and violence.

Justice and Peace is one of the ways to live compassion and the vow of poverty. At their Chapter in Walberberg, chapter 2 (17 A 2 and 3) the brothers wrote the following:

"Preaching and poverty:

In our Order as in the life of Saint Dominic, preaching and poverty are intimately linked. Poverty means more than self-abnegation. It needs to be witnessed. It brings credibility to our preaching for it is a sign of its authenticity and sincerity... In today's world, if we are perceived as being more on the side of the rich than on the side of the poor our preaching is not deemed worthy of belief. How can we expect to free the rich from being dominated by money and other material things if we ourselves do not live a life that is based on moderation and simplicity (LCO 31,1) ? How can we expect the poor to take our preaching seriously if we do not live in a manner that resembles their own lifestyle (LCO 31,2)? It is very important for the Order that poverty be perceived and lived as a major specific sign of the preaching of the brothers."

Preaching and Compassion:

"In conformity with the spirit of Saint Dominic, our preaching must be founded on compassion, a deep compassion with those who suffer, particularly as a result of the selfishness and injustices of others. Compassion alone can bring us goodness and the capacity to read the signs of the times. Compassion is the only way, in our preaching, to acquire the humility for we must learn to listen and to speak, to receive an to give, to be vulnerable and have influence, to be evangelized and to evangelize.

This kind of compassion and humility can only come from a deep union with God in Jesus Christ. We are truly one with God when we imitate the compassion of Christ and his humble service."

At Oakland, the link between Justice and Peace and studies in the Order was emphasized:

"Our study proceeds from our life together in the order but it also is meant to manifest the unity of all humankind in Christ. Consequently, there is an essential link between successful study and the search for a world characterized by justice and peace, a world where men and women enjoy the fullness of the human condition in their dignity as children of Go. When we speak the truth we are doing an act of justice."

In Mexico City, Justice and Peace was clearly inscribed within the program of initial formation for all Dominican life:

  1. Justice and Peace is one of the fundamental elements of the formation of every preacher.
  2. Every Dominican should recognize the face of God in the poor and the suffering, and feel the same compassion learned by our father Saint Dominic as he followed in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. In this way theological reflection will be nurtured by mercy and will avoid making the conventual life a place of refuge from the challenges and demands of reality.
  3. Like every other Dominican, those in formation must be made aware and allow themselves to be challenged by the social conflicts that exist, the misery and marginalization that is the lot of so many men and women today and the unjust structures of society imposed on so many of our brothers and sisters. In this way, they will become authentic preachers and true artisans of justice and peace. Those responsible for formation must provide those in formation with adequate human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral training so they can meet the needs and challenges of our times.
  4. Dominican theological reflection finds its nourishment in the Word of God lived through our commitment to the poor. Our option in favour of the poor is not limited to moral behaviour. We must see the poor as the image of god revealing itself to us, for this is one of the fundamental elements of our faith.
  5. The brothers in formation must remain in personal contact with the realities of poverty, suffering and injustice. We also ask that they be present in the working class neighbourhoods and among the marginalized, and that they collaborate with those working there.
  6. We ask our brothers, both the formators and those in formation, that they be especially attentive to the situation of the marginalized and to the question around the discrimination of women in the church and in society. We should be careful not to lose sight of the realities lived by the various ethnic, cultural, religious and immigrant groups as well as the realities of our Black, Native and Meswtizo brothers and sisters within our societies.
The status of Justice and Peace promotor was instituted for the first time by the General Chapter of Rome #236 (1983):

"We recommend that in all of the Provinces, the Provincial Chapter or the Provincial Prior with his council put in place either a Justice and Peace promoter or commission, and that they determine their functions."

(From the Justice and Peace Pack of the Dominican Order. Availabe from Santa Sabina, Piazza d'Ilaria 1, Roma.)

Also can be seen on the Internet at http://www.op.org/op/