In the recent issues of the Catholic Weeklies, editorials and articles on Human Rights and a message from the bishop who chairs the human rights committee were prominent. The second Sunday of Advent is Human Rights Sunday and from the 8th to 14th of Dec. time is set aside to reflect on human rights and our participation in this revolution of love.
In his message the bishop quotes from Pascal (1623-16662) a 17th-century philosopher who thought deeply about life and wrote in his book Pensées: "Man is a Thinking Reed" weak and often miserable but because he thinks and is conscious of his situation he can transcend it, which makes him great.
However, our social reality is not looking hopeful. The poor are not seen, the oppressed despair and dream of justice and equality, and the socially weak moan in the shadow of indifference, rejection, and disgust; politicians seem to show no interest in the citizens but are keen on how to defend their vested and political interests.
Women, handicapped, sexual minorities, migrants, irregular workers, young workers, elders, and many others are living out of sight. As believers, there is no way we can overemphasize the fact that we are all made in the image of God and worthy of respect.
The Peace Weekly on the front page had an article on Vincent Yun who was in prison for 20 years and finally in 2009 was paroled for good behavior. He was accused of murder which he adamantly denied but since he had no new evidence those close to him advised against it. The murderer recently, who was in prison for another crime, did confess to the killing.
"While under examination, they questioned me for four straight days without sleep so I confessed. I was afraid of the death penalty. I asked for another examination of the evidence but was refused. At that time a lawyer would have cost me 15.000 dollars, the money I didn't have so they gave me a lawyer who only saw be three times in all and at the trial, he hoped that all would be done well."
It's easy to see the blind spots and prejudice involved in this case. We let culture, personal habits and discrimination control our thoughts and behavior often to the harm of others. It is difficult to empathize with another, walk in their shoes and open ourselves up to seeing what is before us and not only what is in our heads.
We are in a time where the mission that we have to evangelize requires we understand the social gospel; our duty with the prophetic call of our baptism to make known the injustices and our responsibility to do something to remedy the situation.
"The Church is present among mankind as God's tent of meeting, “God's dwelling place among men” so that man is not alone, lost or frightened in his task of making the world more human; thus men and women find support in the redeeming love of Christ. As minister of salvation, the Church is not in the abstract nor in a merely spiritual dimension, but in the context of the history and of the world in which man lives. Here mankind is met by God's love and by the vocation to cooperate in the divine plan." (Compendium of the Social Gospel #60)