A fruit of the Holy Spirit is peace. The path to the Spirit is “integral human development”, which is a key component of Catholic Social doctrine.
In his 1967 encyclical Populorum Progressio, Pope Paul VI defined integral human development as follows:
“In God’s plan, every man is born to seek self-fulfillment, for every human life is called to some task by God. At birth a human being possesses certain aptitudes and abilities in germinal form, and these qualities are to be cultivated so that they may bear fruit. By developing these traits through formal education of personal effort, the individual works his way toward the goal set for him by the Creator. Endowed with intellect and free will, each man is responsible for his self-fulfillment even as he is for his salvation. He is helped, and sometimes hindered, by his teachers and those around him; yet whatever be the outside influences exerted on him, he is the chief architect of his own success or failure. Utilizing only his talent and willpower, each man can grow in humanity, enhance his personal worth, and perfect himself.”
Each person was created to experience their full potential and worth as we are all children of God. However, external situations or “hindering” circumstances such as poverty, leave many in our world unable to explore aspects of their humanity, inhibiting growth spiritually, materially, and emotionally.
Sadly, we live in an era in which we are seeing a rise in poverty due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic has severely disrupted livelihoods, with unemployment projected to rise from 3 per cent pre-pandemic to 30 per cent and severe poverty expected to jump from 1.2 per cent to 10.3 per cent.”
With UN predictions such as this, we can expect a near future in which many more within our immediate communities will be adversely impacted by the pandemic.
Pope Francis says the poor are disconnected from society. Poverty, he says, “is often hidden away, but trying to help others can help us rediscover ourselves” (BBC: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-53055220).
Pope Francis reminds us that we are all “interconnected”. As such, the challenge of our neighbour requires collective solutions and interventions.
In keeping with this spirit, the Catholic Commission for Social Justice, to commemorate World Day of the Poor, November 14, 2021, held a landmark conversation with Archbishop Jason Gordon.
Key members of the Inter-Religious Organization of Trinidad and Tobago (IRO) and other faith-based organisations came together to discuss the situation of poverty in Trinidad and Tobago and the possible solutions needed to move forward.
The call was clear! We must join and collaborate to ensure society’s collective well-being, especially in the face of the pandemic.
A direct call was made from Rev Professor Knolly Clarke: “We want to transform, to heal, this thing of poverty. People are wounded by their poverty, and too many of them are things. We have to help them take seriously this question, that they are human beings, and they can be instruments. God has called them, and a lot of them have a lot of gifts. And we must begin with the family at home. It’s just not the family at home, which is important, and there is where we have to give our children a sense of purpose, a sense of direction, a sense of focus so that they could really take hold of their future. And that is the challenge I think we have as religious communities. We ought to have things for the poor. Teach them art and directions, and we do it together. We do it together.”
We celebrate Rev Professor Clarke’s statement and reinforce the call to come together in human solidarity.
Within the same conversation the Archbishop spoke to the Catholic’s duty to the needy within their midst: “…James is saying that there is no true faith without helping the poor. He goes on to say, ‘and if a poor person comes to you and says, “I’m hungry, I’m starving and I’m in need”, and you say, “God bless you, I will pray for you, go your way, then you’re not living true faith.” That’s not true faith’.”
“True faith” and living “right” with God means enhancing the idea of integral human development at an individual and collective level. We must strive towards “enhance[ing] our personal worth, and perfect[ing] ourselves”.
Let us live the words of Pope Francis and express our “interconnectivity” by joining in peaceful conversation, opening our hearts, and genuinely striving to live closely to God.
In doing so, we can experience true community and live harmoniously with every “creed and race” under our T&T sun.
Make sure to check out highlights of the Inter-Religious conversation in CCSJ’s column for the month of January and visit our website, www.rcsocialjustice.org, to download the full e-book.
SOCIAL JUSTICE QUOTE FOR THE WEEK
“The global crisis we are experiencing makes it clear that encounter and dialogue between generations should be the driving force behind a healthy politics, that is not content to manage the present ‘with piecemeal solutions or quick fixes’ but views itself as an outstanding form of love for others, in the search for shared and sustainable projects for the future.” (2)
– Pope Francis, 55th World Day of Peace 2022
CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee