Pope John XXIII asked the Church of the global north to be concerned about the struggles of the global south. The Canadian Government partnered with Development and Peace and other NGOs in matching monies raised in the community to help the plight of the less fortunate in different countries of the world. CNS photo/Vatican

D&P is a sign of faith in Canada and globally

By  Fr. Paul Hansen
  • March 27, 2012

They were exciting times. Pope John XXIII, just months after being elected as Pope, called for an Ecumenical Council. The sorrows, suffering, hopes and joys of the human family were to be those of the Church as well. Bishops, theologians and others from all over the world gathered in Rome from 1962-65 to debate the issues of the day and their relationship to the faith and sacramental life of the Church. One could almost say that the Church saw herself now as part of a global village.

Pope John XXIII also asked the Church of the global north to be concerned about the struggles of the global south. Many religious orders and dioceses responded. These were inspirational times and brought the issues of the human family world wide into the consciousness of Catholics here in Canada

Pope John died during the council and Pope Paul VI, saw it to its conclusion. In 1967 Paul wrote his famous encyclical Popolorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples). This document invited Catholics world wide to see development as a movement from less to more to most human conditions — a relationship with God the author of all life.  If you want peace, work for justice the Pope proclaimed. The Catholics of Canada responded with their bishops and the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace was born.

The Vatican Council sensed that the Spirit and these times were asking for a greater role of the laity in the life of the Church. Hence the governors of Development and Peace were, except for two members, to be from the laity.

The Canadian Government, from the beginning, partnered with Development and Peace and other NGOs in matching monies raised in the community to help the plight of the less fortunate in different countries of the world.

In recent years all of this has changed. In cutting monies to Development and Peace, KAIROS, Project Ploughshares, The Mennonite Central Committee and the Quakers, to name but just a few, the work for justice, peace and the integrity of creation here in Canada and globally has been drastically diminished.

Partners in Africa, Asia and Latin America relying on Canada’s generosity and committed concern now will have to do without. The image of Canada is changing in many parts of the world and not for good. We are no longer perceived as a peace-making nation but one of war. Our government is now supporting NGOs internationally that are twinning with Canadian mining companies that often leave the lives of villagers and the land worse off than before the companies arrived. It seems that for our present government, trade and profit have trumped human need and suffering.

Is this the Canada our parents and grandparents worked so hard to build? Is this the country that welcomes people from all over the world? Is this the Canada we want our government to represent on our behalf?

Development and Peace will now have to refocus its international work and its educational activities here in Canada. It will have to lay off staff and cut back its commitments. The face of Development and Peace will be changed and many will suffer. These developments bring the Catholic community of Canada and others to a new moment. Hard decisions will have to be made. People of faith will have to reconnect with the dreams, hopes and vision of the Second Vatican Council and ask if we too have become part of the problem. Have we slipped into a way of life that speaks of entitlement — I deserve it, you owe it to me? Have we lost a sense of the scriptural call to care for the less fortunate? Do we know how to be a sign of hope for people of faith here in Canada and worldwide?

As Development and Peace now finds itself in a dramatic reassessment, will it continue to be committed to working ecumenically for justice here in Canada and globally?

It is time for people of faith to examine our own lives and support those efforts that work for the betterment of society. It’s time we questioned an economy based on greed, self-interest and idolatry.

To do all this, we need Development and Peace. It is our vocation as Christians to be connected to the poor, the weak, the stranger, the widow, the orphan. If government is no longer on our side in this, we need to learn to stand up now for who we are meant to be, who every Catholic was baptized to be.

Stand up for Development and Peace.

(Fr. Hansen is the founder of the Redemptorist Biblical Justice Consultancy.)

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