Wednesday, February 23, 2011


In an article by a person I do not know who is volunteering for a time in Santa Rosa he writes, “I am not sure who is to blame for this unfairness nor am I sure that it matters. Every minute spent pointing the finger of blame is a minute not extending a hand to help.”

From the article I can see that he is concerned about the situation, but his vision is limited by North American individualism, an overemphasis on works of charity, and as well as by the approach of thinking we North Americans have the solution.

Some might called this approach apolitical but it is highly political because it accepts the situation of sin and only tries to alleviate the symptoms. It reflects what I consider a type of blindness.

The situation in Honduras is sinful.

About 66.2 percent of the population lives in poverty – 21 percent in relative poverty and 45.2 percent in extreme poverty.

Eight out of ten campesino [small country farmer] families own no land or less than ten acres of land, mostly on hill sides. In contrast, 1% of agricultural producers own a third of the cultivable land, mostly in valleys.

Only about 33% of the children go past sixth grade.

Yet there are major concessions offered to businesses. The mining industry only pays about 1% in taxes. They and the owners of franchises like McDonald’s and Wendy’s receive major tax breaks and business incentives.

There is blame because there is injustice. One does not waste time by pointing out injustices if one is also seeking to transform the unjust situation. In fact, to ignore the injustice and just help individuals might ensure the continuation of the injustice.

I believe one must be involved in support of structural transformation as well direct contact with the poor, assisting them in need. Thus while I volunteer with Caritas of the diocese of Santa Rosa and support its efforts at transformation through its political formation programs that empower people, I also help a bit at the lunch program for kids in Santa Rosa founded by the bishop.

Giving isn’t enough; empowering people isn’t enough; working for structural changes alone isn’t enough. It’s a question of transformation – from the personal level to the structural level. It’s a question of love – personal and social – translated into deeds and structures.

Some years ago, the recently deceased retired bishop of Chiapas, Mexico, Samuel Ruíz explained it well.
It’s a very well known saying that if someone offers you a fish, you don’t take it. You ask him to teach you how to fish.

So, Pedro learns how to fish. He goes to the store and he says, “I want to buy a net and I want to buy a hook,” And the owner of the store says, “Uh, what’s going on here, Pedro? You learned how to fish?”

He says, “Yeah, I learned how to fish.” Then the owner says to him, “OK, but what you didn’t know is you have to sell me a portion of your fish.” And Pedro says, “OK,” and he goes out and starts fishing.

He’s on the edge of the lake and soon he feels somebody tapping on his shoulder and somebody is standing there, telling him, “What’s going on here? You can’t be fishing here. This is private land.” And so they push him off.

Pedro has been given a skill, but that’s not enough. You can work on the “development” of the individual person, but the other half of that is working on the structural injustices.

The only question at the end of our lives is about entering the Reign of God: the reign prepared for those who visited the least of their sisters and brothers in jail and who fed them when they were hungry, the reign which those who reject the poor will not enter.

So the ultimate question is not a question of orthodoxy [right belief] but of orthopraxy [right practice]. The final question is not was I right or wrong but did I love my sisters and brothers or not. Whether I was loving my brothers or sisters or not — that is the only question.

(The quote from Bishop Ruíz was taken from the Catholic Peace Ministry Newsletter, June 2000)

1 comment:

Brad said...

An excellent word John. Thanks