Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the Lenten Witness for Peace and Justice, a prayer service filled with readings from the Bible, songs, and inspirational messages from prominent justice leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Archbishop Oscar Romero. The service was held directly in front of the White House, amid the hustle-and-bustle of lobbyists and bureaucrats while nearby tourists photographed our nation’s historical monuments.
Throughout the service, I was moved by the call to justice that was in the readings. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.” Right now, our world needs peace. We need peace around the globe, in our local communities and in our immediate families. As an advocate for peace and justice, I can sometimes feel like establishing peace is an impossible task. How can I work for peace in a world with over 6 billion people? To start, we can look to people who have incited justice in their own communities.
Dorothy Day was an American journalist and co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, a collection of Catholic houses around the U.S. that are dedicated to nonviolence, prayer, and serving the homeless. A self-professed agnostic, she admired the Catholic Church as the “Church of the Poor” and began to explore Catholicism after the birth of her daughter. When she came to Washington D.C. in 1932 to write about the Hunger March, she prayed for guidance on how to use her gifts in service of the hungry and poor. Upon her arrival in New York, she met Peter Maurin, a French immigrant and former Christian Brother who embraced poverty as his vocation. Maurin suggested that Day start a newspaper to promote Catholic social teaching and the idea of a peaceful transformation of society. The Catholic Worker was sold for 1 penny, so cheap that anyone could afford it. Each issue called upon its readers to actively respond to social injustices. The Catholic Worker was a success and homeless people began knocking on the front door of the paper, looking for food and shelter. Day decided to open The Catholic Worker house, where people could stay as long as they needed and for no fee. The Catholic Worker movement spread around the nation. Day also participated in the Civil Rights Movement and was arrested for her protesting for the rights of farmworkers. She died in 1980.
Dolores Huerta, a civil and labor rights proponent who co-founded the United Farm Workers and worked side-by-side with Cesar Chavez. Before devoting her life to activism, she began her career as a teacher, but left her job to correct economic injustice, “I couldn’t stand seeing kids come to class hungry and needing shoes. I thought I could do more by organizing farm workers than by trying to teach their hungry children.” Today at 83 years old, Huerta is still fighting for labor rights.
Another great example of working for justice is Jim Albertini, founder of the Malu ‘Aina (Land of Peace) Center for Non-violent Education and Action in Hawaii. Malu ‘Aina was established in 1980 as a spiritual community for peace, justice, and sustainable organic farming. All fruit and vegetables grown are shared with people in need.
All these people I mentioned are lay people. They aren’t Popes, elected government officials, or even winners of the lottery. They are ordinary, everyday people like you and me, and they are able to make a difference by establishing justice.
THE WORLD CAN BE A DARK PLACE. GIFT THE LIGHT AND LIFE OF JESUS CHRIST AND TOGETHER WE CAN BRIGHTEN THE WORLD.
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