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Current Augustinian Actions to Promote Christian Justice

As a pastor concerned about the problems facing his people, St. Augustine frequently preached and wrote on what the Bible says about poverty, hunger, war, human rights and human dignity. His ancient wisdom can still guide Christians today.

Augustinian friars, concerned about the problems of the people with whom and for whom they minister, are, like St. Augustine, called to promote a more peaceful and more just society, and to stand up for human dignity and rights according to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Here is information about some of the ways in which they do so:

Augustinians Promote Human Trafficking Awareness

Although human trafficking has not received much attention from news media in the United States, it is a reality in almost every country where Augustinian friars live and minister.

Human trafficking is defined as “the practice of humans being tricked, lured, coerced or otherwise removed from their home or country, and then forced to work with no or low payment or on terms which are highly exploitative.” (Wikipedia)

The United Nations Population Program estimates that more than 4 million persons world-wide are affected. The most common form of exploitation is sexual.

A modern form of slavery, human trafficking is a violation of Catholic Christian moral values, as taught by Jesus Christ. It is sin against human dignity and human life. Christians today are called to be aware of the suffering and harm that human trafficking causes, and to act in support policies and initiatives that will eliminate or reduce this evil. (See Matthew 25: 31-46)

The international Augustinian Secretariate for Justice and Peace, committed to assisting Augustinian friars and others in acquiring a greater awareness of the nature, extent, causes and consequences of the trafficking of people, has started a Human Trafficking Awareness Campaign for the years 2009 - 2011.

Bulletins from the Secretariate will explain various aspects of human trafficking. Read these bulletins to learn more about this topic (see links below). Check back frequently, as more bulletins will be added through the duration of the campaign.

Hunger x Half:  Do You Want to Eradicate Hunger?

Our Starting Point

Our starting point is derived from our basic beliefs: “God so loved the world . . . (--John 3:16) God loves this world, here and now, not some ideal world either of the future or of the past.

Hunger Facts

Here are some facts about hunger:

  • Population of the 50 developed countries is 900 million, less that one-sixth of the world’s total population.

  • Population of the developing world, with access to fewer goods and services, is 5 billion.

  • More than 1.2 billion live below the international poverty line, are undernourished, with stunted growth, slowed thinking, sapped energy.

  • Lack of food erodes relationships and self-esteem. Those needing support most are often too ashamed to seek it.

  • Poor families spend 70 per cent of their income for food. In the developed world, the average is 10 per cent.

  • In the U.S., 13 per cent of the citizens (30 million) are hungry.

  • Every year 10 million people die of hunger. Of these, 6 million are children under the age of 5.

  • Every day, 25,000 people die of hunger. Every five seconds, one person dies of hunger.

  • The world produces enough food to feed 120 per cent of the population.

  • Economic and political decisions prevent access to sufficient food by one-third of the world’s population.

What is Hunger?

Most of us have never truly been hungry. Some definitions and descriptions of “hunger”:

  • The necessary urge to eat.

  • A constant companion to many, as a ceaseless discomfort, weakness and pain.

  • A dietary intake that does not provide the kind and quantity of food needed for growth, activity, and good health.

  • Food deprivation: not a voluntary condition, but rather the result of policies, programs, priorities, and/or politics that deprive persons of needed food.

  • A sin.

What Causes Hunger?

There are many causes of hunger. For example:

  • Poverty: Not enough money to buy enough food; Unequal distribution of income. (Think of how much famous entertainers and professional athletes are paid.)

  • Transportation: No way to get to where food is, or to get food to where hungry people are.

  • Disasters: Drought, insects, floods, war.

  • Lack of Resources: No land, no seeds, no proper tools, inadequate understanding of balanced nutrition.

  • Manipulation: Political rulers make food available to reward support or withhold food to punish opposition.

What Our Faith Says

  • I want you to share your bread with the hungry, shelter the homeless poor, remove the yoke of injustice, and let the oppressed go free. -- Isaiah 58:6-7

  • If your brothers and sisters have nothing to wear and no food for the day, and you say to them, “Good-bye and good luck! Keep warm and well-fed,” but do not meet their bodily needs, what good is that? -- James 2:15-17

  • For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited me in; naked, and you clothed me; sick, and you took care of me; in prison, and you came to visit me. -- Matthew 25:35-36

Some possibilities to consider:

  • Alleviate: Help feed the hungry, meet their pressing needs through charity (a Christian obligation).

  • Reduce: Lower the number of hungry persons, but not the intensity of hunger, through economic development (also very important).

  • Eradicate: Eliminate the causes of hunger by changing the structures of society so that hunger disappears (also necessary).

Let’s make a parallel, comparing hunger with other sins, like burglary.

  • Alleviate: Comfort victims of burglary. Help them to replace what was stolen, but do not confront the burglar.

  • Reduce: Pass laws, increase Police patrols, install better locks and security doors.

  • Eradicate: Organize neighbors to make their neighborhood stronger through improved communication and cooperation. Promote a sense of community responsibility. Look out for each other. Work to solve problems of unemployment, undereducation, drug abuse, poor motivation, and other factors that contribute to choosing a career in burglary.

What Can We Do to Eradicate Hunger?

What concretely can we do to eradicate hunger? Some things are:

  • Learn about hunger in your neighborhood, and what life is like for the hungry people living near you.

  • Volunteer to work in a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.

  • Raise awareness of hunger issues in your family, neighborhood, workplace, church and/or school.

  • Write or telephone your elected officials, telling them about your concerns for the hungry.

  • Promote knowledge and support of the Millennium Development Goals (one of which is cutting hunger in half).

  • Advocate political action to change policies and help create enabling governments.

The Gospel of Jesus and traditional Catholic moral teaching direct us to feed the hungry. The Catholic Church, through Catholic Relief Services (CARITAS), Catholic Charities, the St. Vincent de Paul Society and other organizations, labors heroically to combat hunger. Church organizations have made the Millennium Development Goals a top priority.

Augustinians from around the world have reiterated our commitment to achieve Millennium Development Goal Number 1: To reduce by half by 2015 the number of those who are hungry. 

--Adapted from Justice and Peace: An Augustinian Contribution
published by the International Augustinian Secretariate for Justice and Peace, Rome

Bible Readings, Prayers and Pledge to End Racism

To assist in eliminating racial discrimination, we offer these suggested Bible readings, prayers to end the sin of racism and some reflections from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on nonviolent direct action for justice:

  • Recommended Bible Readings

    • Genesis 1:26-31 (God created humanity in his image)

    • 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (We are the Body of Christ)

    • 1 John 3:11-18 (Love must not be mere words)

    • 1 John 4:7-21 (Those who say they love God must love their neighbor)

    • John 15:1-8 (The Vine and the Branches)

    • John 15:9-17 (Love one another)

    • John 17:11-23 (That all may be one)

  • Prayers for the Elimination of Racism

    To the Creator of all races and peoples, who loves each of us for our uniqueness, we offer our prayers of petition:

    For an end to discrimination in all its forms, we pray ...
            Lord of all nations, hear our prayer.

    That each person may be respected and valued as a child of God, we pray ...
            Lord of all nations, hear our prayer.

    That the Church may be a witness and a universal sign of unity among all peoples, we pray ...
            Lord of all nations, hear our prayer.

    That each of us may acknowledge our part in mistakes and sins of the past pertaining to discrimination and racism, we pray ...
            Lord of all nations, hear our prayer.

    For a spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation among peoples who share a history of mutual mistrust, hatred or aggression, we pray ...
            Lord of all nations, hear our prayer.

    That the victims of racial prejudice may forgive those who persecute them, and that their persecutors may have a change of heart, we pray ...
            Lord of all nations, hear our prayer.

    That the Church will continue to strive to make every element of human life correspond to the true dignity of the human person, we pray ...
            Lord of all nations, hear our prayer.

    For those who have struggled in the past and continue to do so today for civil rights, economic justice and the elimination of discrimination based on race, we pray ...
            Lord of all nations, hear our prayer.

    For the conversion of the hearts and minds of those who allow another's race to influence their relationships and limit their openness, we pray ...
            Lord of all nations, hear our prayer.

    That we may work to influence the attitudes of others by expressly rejecting racial stereotypes, slurs and jokes and be affirming of the cultural contributions of every racial group in our world, we pray ...
            Lord of all nations, hear our prayer.

    That we may make a personal commitment to abolish social structures which inhibit economic, educational and social advancement of the poor, we pray ...
            Lord of all nations, hear our prayer.

    That we may work for decent working conditions, adequate income, housing, education and health care for all people, we pray ...
            Lord of all nations, hear our prayer.

    Almighty God, source of our life, we acknowledge you as Creator of all people of every race, language and way of life. Help us to see each other as you see us: your sons and daughters loved into being and sustained by your parental care. Keep watch over our hearts so that the evil of racism will find no home with us. Direct our spirits to work for justice and peace so that all barriers to your grace which oppress our brothers and sisters will be removed. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

    -- Permission is granted to download, duplicate and distribute these Prayers for the Elimination of Racism for use as an aid to prayer. Please credit the Augustinian Secretariate for Justice and Peace
    and www.midwestaugustinians.org/current-augustinian-actions-to-promote-christian-justice.
    Include the words “Used with permission” if printed
    or otherwise publsihed.

  • Reflections on Nonviolent Direct Action for Justice

    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a leader in the struggle to end racism in the United States. He continually stressed the Christian values of brotherhood, reconciliation and love, while pressing strongly for equality of rights and opportunities for all. His most powerful weapon was Nonviolent Direct Action. We offer these excerpts from Dr. King's public speeches for your reflection:

    • Nonviolent direct action did not originate in America, but it found its natural home in this land, where refusal to cooperate with injustice was an ancient and honorable tradition and where Christian forgiveness was written into the minds and hearts of good (people).

    • The nonviolent approach does something to the hearts and souls of those committed to it. It gives them new self-respect. It calls up resources of strength and courage that they did not know they had. Finally, it so stirs the conscience of the opponent that reconciliation becomes a reality.

    • Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. It is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the one who wields it. It is a sword that heals.

    • Nonviolence . . . is the method which seeks to implement the just law by appealing to the conscience of the great decent majority who through blindness, fear, pride or irrationality have allowed their consciences to sleep.

    • At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love.

Take the Pledge Against Racism

Take the online United Nations Personal Pledge Against Racism today.

The Augustinian Secretariate for Justice and Peace strongly supports the Pledge and the values for which it stands. The Secretariate urges you to express your commitment to equality and justice by taking the online Pledge now.

The Pledge is:

As a citizen of the world community, I stand with the United Nations against Racism, Discrimination and Intolerance of any kind. Throughout my life I will try to promote equality, justice and dignity among all people, in my home, my community and everywhere in the world.

      » Click here to take the Pledge Against Racism online. Your pledge will be automatically recorded.

Augustinians Support Seven International Days

The international Augustinian Order, as an accredited Non-Governmental Organization (N.G.O.) at the United Nations, seeks to be an instrument for implementing values of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as reflected in the social teachings of the Catholic Church, in the international forum.

The Order works to defend human rights, promote education and literacy, as well as economic and social development, and to foster a Culture of Peace.

The Augustinians around the world have selected seven International U. N. Days for special observance. These days give particular emphasis to Christian values. They are:

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

International Day of Families

International Day of Families

World Environment Day

World Environment Day

International Day of Peace

International Day of Peace

World Food Day

World Food Day

United Nations Day

United Nations Day

Human Rights Day

Human Rights Day