The Values Down-Under
28 October 2014
Visiting Melbourne and Adelaide in South Australia has awoken in me a new realization that human nature is the same everywhere in the world but social equality is not.In beautiful,friendly,wealthy and prosperous Australia the goodness and generosity of the people is apparent. It was encouraging and inspiring during my two week daily speaking tour to communities and colleges. In these well-off parishes and colleges I discovered a high sense of social justice in the heart of their Christianity and Catholicism.The parishes I visited are alive with a sense of working for justice ,in their own communities and also in the developing world. In the colleges I met the students aged 17 and 18 and they too have a commitment to a meaningful life based on ethical Christian values.This is the direction and trust of the Mission awareness of the Columban missionaries ,my colleagues that I stayed with for a time during my visit.A most important part of their message is that Christianity is most alive when it is lived out as being on mission to better this world and make it a community where justice,respect for human rights are paramount.This is what is widely taught and practiced as being at the center of human life and dignity and for which Jesus of Nazareth lived and died for. Christianity as lived for many these days is less about rite and ritual and more about action for justice and living a life of concern for others worse off than we are.Most of the catholic schools and even many individual class rooms have support projects for communities,families, schools,hospitals in Asia and South American countries. Groups of students travel abroad to visit these projects and volunteer there for weeks every year. This exposure to reality in developing countries gives them a whole new understanding of the world they live in and the truth about the one billion people who are hungry daily and surviving just below the poverty line.
This is one special way true Christians in the rich developed countries find expression in action.The work to alleviate poverty,human suffering and relate to other poorer humans with compassion and understanding and to make a place for them in their hearts and community.Not al are so compassionate and caring however.
It was an eye-opener and encouraging to see harmonious multiracial catholic schools embracing these values and causes. Whereas in the Philippines the children of wealthy elite are seldom out working as volunteers in the slums, or in social developing projects. Whereas this year alone we at the Preda center in Olongapo have had as many as five overseas groups visiting and two from Australia have to arrive this December.
During the year as many as twenty five volunteers and students from European nations have come to participate and serve in the projects for human rights advocacy and promotion. They work with the indigenous people, visit the villages ,plant trees and make friends. They have projects and activities with the Preda children saved from the misery and injustice of the many local government child detention centers all over metro Manila and support and help the children rescued from brothels and sex bars. Other young people come as students on internship in the Preda social education programme and they have an unforgettable life experience.
When these people, young and not so young, return to their home parishes and communities many become involved in sharing their experiences and continuing the great work taking a stand for the rights of the poor and the oppressed and giving talks and organizing events for the people in the developing countries where they served.
They become engaged in promoting fair trade and social justice causes because that have seen and experienced first hand the lives of the poor. They realize just how unjust this world is where 1 % of the world’s population own 48% of the wealth. They have seen how the poor struggle for life and decency.To be here and see,touch,taste and smell the hardship and poverty with the people is very different and it has an astounding effect never to be forgotten.
Its a very important part of the education to know and experience the life of the poor and the developing world.Its deplorable that the children of Philippine wealthy elite seldom venture outside the sleek comfort of their plush luxurious enclaves in gated communities, condominiums and air conditioned malls.But in Australia most have an enlightened Christian life but not all. There is the down side and it is a country divided over the asylum seekers begging for a new life in Australia. The policy of the Abbot administration turn them away and even return them to the country of their oppression or send them to inhospitable countries is considered by many as inhuman. This policy is saying that Australia is not for the likes of them. Many hundreds of thousands of fair minded Australians,many themselves descendants of migrants and those victims of cruel injustices believe in giving everyone “a fair go”. Many are outraged at these cruel harsh and mean policies and they are taking a principled stand ,speaking out and working for justice for all.Thats the true Christian spirit I found on my speaking tour in the land down-under.