Liam Finn is CAFOD’s Regional Media Officer. His personal Lent journal today focuses on World Day of Social Justice.
“Why do you want this job?”
“I don’t really. I don’t want CAFOD to exist.”
That was how I started to answer the question from my boss in my CAFOD interview. It might seem a mad response to someone in the hope that they would offer me the job. But I meant it. CAFOD exists because social injustices exist. I really wanted my job, and – *spoiler alert* – I was offered it. Yet I would much rather live in a world where people don’t go hungry or lack access to clean water, where people don’t have to flee from wars or oppression, and where people have the same means as others in richer countries to withstand disasters and rebuild their lives afterwards. We at CAFOD work to achieve that world and make ourselves unnecessary in the future: we work for social justice.
What is social justice?
Today is World Day of Social Justice. I’ve been using the day to consider what social justice means. I studied Law at university because I wanted to learn about what justice is, and how to bring it about in the world. I believe that basic justice is achieved when everyone has seven things:
- (1) Enough nutritious food to eat
- (2) Access to enough clean water to drink, wash, and cook
- (3) Access to affordable healthcare
- (4) A quality education
- (5) Decent and affordable shelter
- (6) Opportunities for fulfilling work and an environment in which to enjoy life
These six things lead to the last ingredient in my ‘recipe for social justice’:
- (7) Positive peace’
A university tutor taught me that there are two types of peace. One is ‘negative peace’ – when there’s no violence, such as straight after a ceasefire. The other is ‘positive peace’ – when we don’t only have an absence of conflict but can also live safely in our homes, and go to school, and play music or football, or do the other things we enjoy in life. Positive peace is all the elements of social justice added together.
How do we achieve social justice?
I work in the CAFOD media team. I’m lucky to do so, as this gives me the chance to spend my working day following the instruction of the Prophet Isaiah in today’s First Reading:
Shout for all you are worth, do not hold back, raise your voice like a trumpet.
A typical day in the CAFOD media team might involve celebrating a supporter who’s raising funds for our work, or speaking to journalists about how we’re helping our partners to stop the spread of Ebola, or raising awareness of our One Climate, One World campaign to highlight the fact that the changing climate is hitting the communities we serve overseas the hardest.
This Lent, I also want to reflect further on what injustices I should be shouting about and the other ways I can try to work towards social justice.
At the weekend, I’m joining hundreds of CAFOD supporters Speaking at Mass across Wales and England ahead of Lent Fast Day on Friday 27 February. I love doing this because it’s a way of reminding us how the money we donate each Fast Day helps us to support people such as Kyin Nu in Myanmar recover from disasters. It’s a fantastic opportunity to talk about us, as the Church, working together across continents to deliver the seven social justice ingredients.
Cutting out meat
I became a vegetarian three years ago. It was something I had thought about for a long time, but didn’t think I could manage. Yet I haven’t missed it. Even though my family will happily tell everyone how bad my cooking is, I can find lots of different, tasty, and meat-free meals, which are normally cheaper and healthier than meat dishes.
I went veggie as I became more aware of the impact meat has on our climate and food supplies. Animals raised for meat production make a significant contribution to the gases that are causing climate change. The amount of land required for meat production is vastly greater than the amount needed for producing other types of food, meaning that there could be far more and far cheaper food available for everyone, at a time when millions of our sisters and brothers go to bed hungry every night.
Even knowing this, whenever I’m asked why I’m a vegetarian, I try to wriggle out of answering because I don’t want to offend people. This Lent, I’m going to speak up against what I think can be an injustice when we’re in a position to eat other foods. I’ll try to have the courage to politely explain my reasons to the next person who asks me why I’m a vegetarian, and hope that they will cut down the amount of meat they eat. It’s a way of caring for creation and ensuring that everyone has enough food to eat.
Homelessness is one of the clearest injustices we can see – whether it’s someone on a street in London or a family fleeing from the war in Syria. This Lent, I’m going to try to learn more about the work of our colleagues at CSAN, the Catholic Social Action Network, especially how they tackle the factors that lead people to become homeless and put support in place to help people rebuild their lives.
Lastly, I’m going to make a fundamental change this Lent and spend some time each day in prayer, following our Lent calendar in asking God to give me the wisdom to know when to speak out for justice and the courage not to be afraid. And I’ll be hoping that one day we really do make CAFOD unnecessary when everyone benefits from proper social justice.