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The role of the Church in uplifting the vulnerable poor in society

Church in the Community - Media Release in the Herald: 15th January 2024

Source: TCN / Lubabalo Mguda
Date Added: 2024-01-15

Category: General NewsTCN NewsIssues - GeneralIssues - Social upliftment
The beginning of a new year often brings with it new energy and fresh hope that things will change for the better.

We are encouraged at this time to make new year’s resolutions that are pregnant with expectation and possibility for change.

January, the first month, takes its name from the Roman god, Janus, who was a protector of gates and doorways symbolizing beginnings and endings.

The image of Janus has two faces. One looks into the past while the other had the ability to see into the future.

As we tread hopefully and enthusiastically into 2024, let us pause to consider the forgotten citizens of our “beloved country”, the vulnerable poor who, according to Stats SA, comprise approximately half (49,2%) of the adult population in the country.

In the Eastern Cape, the percentage is 18,1 % higher than the national average and we have the distinctive shame of being the highest.

The basic Judeo-Christian message from the Old Testament to the New Testament is the premise that the vulnerable poor other is our neighbour, therefore, we should love them as much as we love ourselves (Lev 19:18).

This revolutionary message is continued by the prophets of the Old Testament, chief among them, Amos (5:10 – 13), who within the context of social injustice, spoke truth to power against the corrupt leaders of Israel.

In the New Testament, this message culminates in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary and Joseph.

This carpenter from the Galilee was a street-preaching rabbi working among the poor, liberating them from religious and political oppression by telling subversive parables about the Kingdom of God. This man referred to himself as the Son of Man and we refer to him as Son of God.

He is the embodiment of human dignity for all God’s children. Hence, He was crucified on the cross.

In the words, of Pope Benedict XVI of happy memory, "the Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the sacraments and the Word."

Therefore, the Church has an important task to proclaim Good News to the poor (Luke 4:18 21) by speaking truth to power against corruption in all its forms in society and to find ways and means of showing concrete love for the poor, not only by giving them charity, but also by challenging the economic system keeps the poor oppressed under the yoke of poverty.

This has always been a controversial message in any era, but it is particularly contentious in an information age that is obsessed with image, power and wealth.

A community of faith that is deeply rooted in the Judeo-Christian message understands that service to the poor in all their manifestation is non-negotiable.

The role of the Church in society is to create a humane world that promotes life and dignity of the human person, proclaiming sacredness of human life.

This is a very critical role in our impoverished communities which are part of the historical landscape of our land, where there are high rates criminality, youth unemployment, substance and drug abuse, and many other social challenges.

The support that Church is providing to the poor is not only in material in nature but also in social services and psycho-emotional help to enable a wholistic integrated intervention.

This includes mentoring programmes, good role models, talent identification and a platform to express the  youthful energy in a positive way. A positive environment for young people creates the possibility of escaping their prevailing circumstances of poverty.

The role of the Church is also to enable young people to understand the value of family, community and society.

Therefore, in the words of Saint John Paul II, “freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.”

Rights and responsibilities go hand in hand. Therefore, the human person cannot live on their own for themselves but must serve the good of all, especially the vulnerable poor.

The value of stable family life cannot be overstated. It is not always because people were poor that their lives fall apart but it can sometimes be about the lack of structure and discipline at the most critical developmental stage.

The Church should support marriages before they happen, during the good times and in times of crises.

The role of the Church is to educate the poor so that they are not victims of secular culture that simply wants to numb their senses with entertainment and pleasure, while taking away their hard-earned cash.

The Church has a responsibility to liberate the poor from the helpless and the inferiority complex that they are just victims of circumstances and there is nothing they can do to change their situation.

The Church has a duty to arm the poor against the propaganda of the corrupt political class that uses them as a voting herd to keep themselves in legitimate power in order to loot the natural resources of our country.

The Church has the function of giving the poor tools to critically analyse the status quo and the voices that seem to position themselves as alternatives without a clear programme for the vulnerable members of society.

As we begin this year, let us dream with Pope Francis of a "poor Church for the poor."

A Church that makes a difference in the lives of the poor rather than rob them of their dignity.

Fr Lubabalo Mguda
Church of the Sacred Heart, Gqeberha
Source: TCN / Lubabalo Mguda
Date Added: 2024-01-15

Category: General NewsTCN NewsIssues - GeneralIssues - Social upliftment
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