October, 2020 Monthly ReflectionOctober 4, 2020
There Is No Charity Without Justice
by Sister Margaret Louise Brown, DC
“There is no Charity without Justice”– St. Vincent de Paul
“Charity is directed at the effects of injustice, its symptoms. Charity addresses problems that already exist. Justice is directed at the root causes of social problems. Justice addresses the underlying structures or causes of these problems.”
As a Daughter of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, I am often taken with his words and accompanying reflections. The above is one such example. We recognize it is easier to provide bread to those who are hungry then to dedicate time and move beyond our comfort zones to change the systems and social structures which keep people in a perpetual state of hunger.
The same can be said for the cruelty of human trafficking. There are many generous folks who want to help those who have found themselves the victims of trafficking. Through direct service or by supporting those organizations who provide those services, people respond to the tangible, mental, and spiritual needs of those who have survived or are still under the scourge of this human plague. Organizations like USCSAHT and our affiliated organizations could not exist without the help of those who reach out in service, prayer or support. All very charitable activities to address the problem that already exists.
But what about addressing the underlying structures or causes of these problems? That, we find, is not so easy. It takes confidence in what we know is right; fortitude to continue on when the systems seemed stacked against us; consistency in message and contact; and it takes confidence in God, that His Will be done. But He needs our hands, our feet, our minds, our speech, our willingness to move outside our comfort zones to ensure justice.
Working for structural, legal, economic and systemic changes is much needed at state, federal and international levels. But working at the local level is where you might feel the most effective. A well-known phrase comes to mind, “Think globally and act locally.” We have come to know the root causes of human trafficking and the systems, laws, and organizations which perpetuate the act. It is very important we reach out to our Federal and State representatives to support a bill or position. But it is extraordinarily important to get engaged locally. Find an advocacy group in your town or region and look into their work. Make an appointment with your City Councilperson to find out more about what is happening and what still needs to be done to control trafficking in your city. Yes, it can feel like a lot of work, and sometimes you might feel you are “going it alone.” But, you will find great reward knowing that you decided to Find, Learn, Partner and Act! God will surely reward you for your willingness to engage in justice for those most vulnerable.
There are two parts of God’s law of justice. We are all called to provide charity to meet the immediate needs of those seeking help. We are also called to seek justice by working to break down systems that keep vulnerable people at risk. Can you answer both calls?
As the song goes, “Go make a difference. You can make a difference!”