Tag Archives: poverty

30 October, Christ walking with travellers: A journey to Hell.

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Here is part of an address given to the United Nations General Assembly on behalf of Pope Francis by Archbishop Paul Gallagher; here he treats human trafficking where people, often children, are sold into modern slavery.

Mr. President,

Another great challenge facing the international community is trafficking in persons. At the root of this and other contemporary forms of slavery are wars and conflicts, extreme poverty, underdevelopment and exclusion, lack of education, lack of employment opportunities and environmental catastrophes. But we ought to recognize that on the demand side of such criminal trafficking there is also a crass selfishness, which reaches unimaginable levels of moral irresponsibility in the case of the trafficking of children, organs, tissues and embryos and in the so-called transplant tourism. Such execrable trade is exacerbated by corruption on the part of public officers and common people willing to do anything for financial gain. Indeed, the migration and refugee crises are facilitating an increase in trafficking in persons and other contemporary forms of slavery.

The Holy See and the Catholic Church have long spoken out against the evil of trafficking in persons and through the dedicated work of so many individuals and institutions, they have sought to fight its root causes, to care for the victims, to raise awareness about it, and to work with anyone and everyone to try to eliminate it. Pope Francis calls trafficking in persons an “open wound on the body of contemporary society”[18] and an “atrocious scourge that is present throughout the world on a broad scale.”[19]

At the heart of this evil, however, is the utter loss of respect for human dignity and the total indifference to the sufferings of fellow human beings. Modern slavery happens when “people are treated as objects,” which leads to their being “deceived, raped, often sold and resold for various purposes, and in the end either killed or left devastated in mind and body, only to be finally thrown away or abandoned.”[20] Refocusing on people, putting people first in the overall work of this Organization ought unhesitatingly to support the fight against trafficking in persons and other contemporary forms of slavery.

Pope Francis calls on all, in particular the competent authorities, to address such a heinous crime through effective juridical instruments, to punish those who profit from it, to assist the healing and the reintegration of its victims, and to eradicate its root causes. Our response must be commensurate to this great evil of our time.

It is part of the Church’s mission, is option for the poor, to fight the root causes of trafficking, to care for the victims, to raise awareness about it, and to work with anyone and everyone to try to eliminate it. Tomorrow we will look at one example of this.

 

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21 October: M is for Merthyr Tydfil

396px-Merthyr_Tydfil_arms

https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4249407

Readers may get the impression that Agnellus has a slight obsession with Welsh and Saxon Princesses who knew their own minds and hearts. We don’t apologise! Such women may have used their privileged position to be allowed to open their monasteries and run them with minimal male oversight, but in doing so they enabled other women to live in community, to receive an education, to be able to help those who came to the abbeys for help.

Not so Tydfil – or Tudul in the accepted Welsh spelling. She was a martyr, killed, it is said, by a gang of pagans. I once helped tidy up her churchyard in the town, and rescued from the skip an angel from a broken gravestone; he or she watches over our backdoor today.

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Tudful was by no means the last martyr in Merthyr. With iron and coal nearby, the town was a cradle of the Industrial Revolution. People came for work as rural jobs disappeared, as famine struck in Ireland, but they lived in insanitary conditions, many dying of diseases including cholera. Human sacrifices on the altars of capitalism, as so many people around the world are today, living and working in unsafe conditions.

We’ve noted before how we are inescapably implicated in exploitation of our sisters and brothers; for instance it is difficult to avoid buying clothes and shoes produced without misusing people: at least there are Fair Trade bananas, coffee, chocolate and other foods. Their producers look after the land they work.

The old iron and coal masters did not: spoil heaps covered and poisoned fields close to the iron works or pit head; often it was many years before even birch trees would grow there. The ultimate martyrdom from this disregard of God’s creation occurred near Merthyr on October 21,1966 when a spoil heap at Aberfan avalanched down the side of the valley, taking the lives of 116 children and 28 adults, who would not have been born when someone decided to dump rock and soil on a steep slope. I met a policeman who lost his faith in God after living through that afternoon; who can blame him? But this was man’s work.

You may dispute my use of the word martyrdom, but lives were cut short through accident or disease through worship of Mammon.

The Way of Jesus puts people before profit. A good start would be the motto beneath the Saint on the arms: ONLY BROTHERHOOD IS STRONG. Provided, of course, that the sisters are not left out.

Let us grit our teeth in the face of human wickedness, and say Laudato Si’ – and give a care to our own little patches of God’s earth – ours to hand on to others better than we found it. And perhaps find a corner or two we can brighten with a little guerilla gardening or tree planting.

MMB

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4 October: Pope Francis in Assisi

Pope Francis in Assisi - OSS_ROM

 On the Feast of Saint Francis we invite you to share Pope Francis’s words of peace at Assisi last year.

Appeal for Peace of His Holiness Pope Francis

Piazza of Saint Francis, Assisi

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Men and women of various religions, we gather as pilgrims in the city of Saint Francis.  Thirty years ago in 1986, religious representatives from all over the world met here at the invitation of Pope John Paul II.  It was the first such solemn gathering that brought so many together, in order to affirm the indissoluble bond between the great good of peace and an authentic religious attitude.  From that historic event, a long pilgrimage was begun which has touched many cities of the world, involving many believers in dialogue and in praying for peace.  It has brought people together without denying their differences, giving life to real interreligious friendships and contributing to the resolution of more than a few conflicts.  This is the spirit that animates us: to bring about encounters through dialogue, and to oppose every form of violence and abuse of religion which seeks to justify war and terrorism.   And yet, in the years that have followed, numerous populations have nonetheless been painfully wounded by war.  People do not always understand that war harms the world, leaving in its wake a legacy of sorrows and hate.  In war, everyone loses, including the victors.

We have prayed to God, asking him to grant peace to the world.  We recognize the need to pray constantly for peace, because prayer protects the world and enlightens it.  God’s name is peace.  The one who calls upon God’s name to justify terrorism, violence and war does not follow God’s path.  War in the name of religion becomes a war against religion itself.  With firm resolve, therefore, let us reiterate that violence and terrorism are opposed to an authentic religious spirit.

We have heard the voice of the poor, of children and the younger generations, of women and so many brothers and sisters who are suffering due to war.  With them let us say with conviction: No to war!  May the anguished cry of the many innocents not go unheeded.  Let us urge leaders of nations to defuse the causes of war: the lust for power and money, the greed of arms’ dealers, personal interests and vendettas for past wrongs.  We need a greater commitment to eradicating the underlying causes of conflicts: poverty, injustice and inequality, the exploitation of and contempt for human life.

May a new season finally begin, in which the globalized world can become a family of peoples.  May we carry out our responsibility of building an authentic peace, attentive to the real needs of individuals and peoples, capable of preventing conflicts through a cooperation that triumphs over hate and overcomes barriers through encounter and dialogue.  Nothing is lost when we effectively enter into dialogue.  Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer.  Everyone can be an artisan of peace.  Through this gathering in Assisi, we resolutely renew our commitment to be such artisans, by the help of God, together will all men and women of good will.

 

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August 10: Francis Thompson IX: In Darkest England.

In Darkest England

Thompson, a century ago, saw conditions that needed addressing. Having been homeless, he knew the life from inside. Here he compares the Salvation Army with the Franciscans, lamenting that there are not more of the latter. In view of the closure of the Franciscan Study Centre and the diminishing numbers of professed religious Franciscans, we can learn from the Salvation Army, and stand shoulder to shoulder with them with the Food Banks and other ecumenical ventures. The state of ecumenism, at least, is an advance on Thompson’s day.

Tomorrow is the Feast of Saint Clare, friend of St Francis and founder of the Franciscan sisters known as Poor Clares. Happy Feast to all our sisters!

Consider what the Salvation Army is. It is not merely a sect, it is virtually a Religious Order, but a Religious Order of a peculiar kind. It consists of men and women living in the world the life of the world, pursuing their businesses, marrying, bringing up families; yet united by rule and discipline, and pushing forward active work of charity and religious influence among the forsaken poor. It possesses, moreover, the advantage of numerous recruits from the ranks of the poor, through whom it can obtain intimate knowledge of the condition and requirements of their class.

May it be that here, too, the Salvation Army has studied St Francis? Here, too, the Assisian has left us a weapon which but needs little practice to adapt it to the necessity of the day. Even so… The Franciscan Tertiaries are this army. They are men and women who live in the world the life of the world – though not a worldly life: who marry, rear their families, attend to their worldly vocations; yet they are a Religious Order, with rule and observance.

Not all of us are called to join the Franciscan Tertiaries, but there are many openings for us to ‘meet the necessities of the day’. Something to ponder on.

MMB.

See The Works of Francis Thompson, Prose: Volume III, p57-58. Burns Oates, 1920.

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August 5, Francis Thompson IV. THE HOUND OF HEAVEN: III

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I sought no more that, after which I strayed,
In face of man or maid;
But still within the little children’s eyes
Seems something, something that replies,
They at least are for me, surely for me!
I turned me to them very wistfully;
But just as their young eyes grew sudden fair
With dawning answers there,
Their angel plucked them from me by the hair.
“Come then, ye other children, Nature’s—share
With me” (said I) “your delicate fellowship;
Let me greet you lip to lip,
Let me twine with you caresses,
Wantoning
With our Lady-Mother’s vagrant tresses,
Banqueting
With her in her wind-walled palace,
Underneath her azured daïs,
Quaffing, as your taintless way is,
From a chalice
Lucent-weeping out of the dayspring.”
So it was done:
I in their delicate fellowship was one—
Drew the bolt of Nature’s secrecies.
I knew all the swift importings
On the wilful face of skies;
I knew how the clouds arise
Spumèd of the wild sea-snortings;
All that’s born or dies
Rose and drooped with—made them shapers
Of mine own moods, or wailful or divine—
With them joyed and was bereaven.
I was heavy with the even,
When she lit her glimmering tapers
Round the day’s dead sanctities.
I laughed in the morning’s eyes.
I triumphed and I saddened with all weather,
Heaven and I wept together,
And its sweet tears were salt with mortal mine;
Against the red throb of its sunset-heart
I laid my own to beat,
And share commingling heat;
But not by that, by that, was eased my human smart.
In vain my tears were wet on Heaven’s grey cheek.
For ah! we know not what each other says,
These things and I; in sound I speak—
Their sound is but their stir, they speak by silences.
Nature, poor stepdame, cannot slake my drouth;
Let her, if she would owe me,
Drop yon blue bosom-veil of sky, and show me
The breasts o’ her tenderness:
Never did any milk of hers once bless
My thirsting mouth.

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August 1: Shared Table XIII, Dishonouring the poor at table.

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If there shall come into your assembly a man having a golden ring, in fine apparel, and there shall come in also a poor man in mean attire, and you have respect to him that is clothed with the fine apparel, and shall say to him: Sit thou here well; but say to the poor man: Stand thou there, or sit under my footstool: do you not judge within yourselves, and are become judges of unjust thoughts?

Hearken, my dearest brethren: hath not God chosen the poor in this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which God hath promised to them that love him? But you have dishonoured the poor man.

James 2:2-6.

I was struck between the eyes by a restaurant review which described the diners as bravely consuming roasted grasshoppers and silkworms. Where did the chef source them, I wondered. It all sounded like the decadent feasts portrayed in Asterix the Gaul comic books. Then I read an article by Joseph Pons, a student at ICES University in France.1 He writes about quinoa, the so-called super-food.

I had images of acres of the stuff, ripening in Somerset. Wrong! Quinoa comes from Bolivia and Peru and was a staple for poor people, till rising prices meant they had to sell all they could produce and buy rice from Asia to feed their families. Meanwhile, richer Asian people are buying Western agricultural produce.

Quinoa cost forty times the price of wheat in European markets in 2013.

Yes, I tend to think of a global food chain as linking us together for good, but in this case it is not for the good of all. And so far as I know I’ve never eaten quinoa, grasshoppers, or silkworms. But then one of our mottoes here at Agnellus Mirror is ‘Eat whatever they put before you’, (Luke 10:7) so who knows what will be on the menu some day?

Let’s hope it will not be served to us to the dishonour of the producer, and let’s strive to avoid such damaging fads.

text and photo: MMB

Barley in Kent.

1Joseph Pons: L’Avenir commence demain en consummant differement, in La Ruche ICES, 22/5/2017, p10.

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25 June: Shared Table VII, Lunch with Pope Benedict.

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Pope Emeritus Benedict has contrasted his style with that of Pope Francis,suggesting that he should have got among the people more. Yet Benedict did something radical in this direction when he came out of the Vatican and shared a Christmas meal with homeless people at the Sant’Egidio Community. (Amazingly, protocol demanded that the Pope should not be seen eating!)

He told the gathering:

It is a moving experience for me to be with you, to be with Jesus’ friends, because Jesus especially loves people who are suffering, people in difficulty, and wants them to become his brothers and sisters. Thank you for this possibility! I am very glad and I thank all those who prepared the meal, lovingly and competently I was truly aware of the good cooking, congratulations! and I also thank those who served the food.

At lunch I heard of sorrowful events full of humanity and also stories of love rediscovered here at Sant’Egidio: the experiences of elderly, homeless or disabled people, emigrants, gypsies, individuals with financial problems or other difficulties who are all, in one way or another, sorely tried by life. I am here with you to tell you that I am close to you and love you, and that you and your affairs are not far from my thoughts but rather at the centre and in the heart of the Community of believers, hence also in my heart.

With the words of St John Chrysostom I would like to remind each one: “Consider you have become a priest of Christ, giving with your own hand not flesh but bread, and not Blood, but a cup of water” (Homily on the Gospel of Matthew, 42,3). What riches are offered to life by God’s love expressed in real service to our brothers and sisters who are in need! Like St Lawrence, a Deacon of the Church of Rome, when the Roman magistrates of the time sought to intimidate him, to make him handover the Church’s treasure, he pointed to the poor of Rome as the true treasure of the Church. We can make St Lawrence’s gesture our own and say that you poor people really are the Church’s treasure.

http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/speeches/2009/december/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20091227_pranzo-poveri.pdf

Pope Benedict XVI visits the Community of Sant’Egidio.

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22 May: A is for Aston

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back-to-back houses, Birmingham

 

Why the spruced-up slum? I was going to write about Aston Hall, the mansion that overlooks Villa Park in Birmingham. My boyhood home was nearby so we could go there on the green diesel trains, taking care to cross the roads safely and watch out for the ‘rough’ Aston kids, who never actually bothered with us. I thought there were priest holes at Aston Hall, but you can appreciate just how mixed up I was when I began writing this post by reading Carl Chinn’s article here.

Consider the contrast between the splendour of the Hall and its park, and the nineteenth century slums all around it. Again,  Dr Chinn gives some insight into the very different ways of life and how the local people themselves raised money to save the hall and park.

One route from Aston station was along ‘Lovers’ Walk’, a narrow alley of grimy red brick; I doubt any lovers would have lingered there. Was it a lovers’ walk before the slums surrounded it, and the name stuck, or an example of slum-dwellers’  humour? After my great grandmother died I was entrusted with taking her clothes along there to the rag merchant’s yard. What they raised was hardly worth the trouble and train fare.

Aston smelt (literally) of stale poverty, but some remarkable people grew up there. My friend Gill remembers dressing the 8 year old Ossie Osborne in old clothes and a mask, and pushing him round the streets to raise money for November 5 fireworks. Penny for the guy?

If Britain could demolish Aston and build new council houses in the 1950s when there was less wealth in the country, why is it now so impossible to house families decently?

WT.

 

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February 13: Favela!

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As well as fantasy, the BOing! Festival at the University of Kent tried to provide a contrasting awareness of the hurtful and distressing reality of severe overcrowding. This installation in the foyer of the Gulbenkian Theatre was called ‘Favela’ which is the name for large concentrations of slum dwellings in shanty town conditions around the cities of South America. The impression of thousands of families barely housed at all, piled on top of one another, given here for the teenagers and pre-teens to wonder at, was very striking. Poverty, even when represented in a cardboard imitation, is overwhelming.

The Brazilian Catholic Franciscan theologian Leonardo Boff writes about the way in which Francis of Assisi “brought great liberation to the poor,” even without the advantages of a social services structure. “That which makes poverty inhuman is not solely (though it is principally) the non-satisfaction of basic life needs. It is the denigration, exclusion from human community, the introjections into the poor of a negative image of themselves, an image produced by the dominating classes. The poor person begins to believe he is low and despicable.”

In St. Francis, “the ferment of the Gospel breaks forth in all its questioning, challenging reality. We realize how lazy we are, how strong the old man still remains within us. [Francis] is more than an ideal; he is a way of being, an experience of identification with all that is simplest, fraternization with all that is lowliest, enabling the emergence of the best that is hidden within each human being.” [From L. Boff & W. Buehlmann eds., Build Up my Church.]

CD, January 2017

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