JUSTICE AND PEACE SUNDAY
20th August, 2006
(Approved English version of Message No. CP/1662/2006, written originally in Konkani)
"Let us Build a Corruption-free Society"The Independence Day celebrations last week highlighted repeatedly the rapid development strides taken by our nation, Bharat. While this 'glad' news fills the air, we should be asking a serious question: "does this progress benefit every Indian?" As we reflect on this further, we will realize how unrestrainedly the seeds of corruption are being sown everywhere. Indeed, great is the power of our nation, but great as well is the selfishness in her, making her an easy prey to the demon of Corruption. In such circumstances, we need to ask: "Are the fruits of Development available to everyone? Are the doors of Justice open to all?"
Every year the Church in India observes the third Sunday in August as Justice and Peace Sunday. This year, the Church in India, through her CBCI Commission for Justice, Peace and Development, has given a call for everyone to work ardently to build a corruption- free society. Sharing in this concern, we too need to reflect together on this important issue.
Corruption takes place mainly when one is prepared to give or receive any reward for personal gain in exchange for some official work or even in order to get work done by circumventing the normal procedures. The root of corruption is greed. A bribe is not a donation, it is a social sin! The Old Testament warns us in these words: "You must not accept bribes, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of those who are in the right" (Deut. 16, 19). Corruption hurts the human family and brings loss to nations together.
Wherever corruption is rampant, people lose confidence in the Government, in its institutions and laws; the will to work with honesty is weakened and thus true development is hampered. Corruption decreases investments and slows economic growth and the worst affected in the process are the poor. In our own midst, some officials are found to be shamelessly amassing wealth through unjust practices, their only concern appearing to be to hold on to their chairs, thus bringing disrepute to our State. Bureaucracy should be controlling corruption. But, sad to say, many officials give cause to hopelessness in the citizens and thereby create opportunities for corruption by consistently adopting a ‘come-tomorrow’ tactic. This constitutes a serious assault on democracy.
The Gospel challenges every Christian who lives in a corruption-ridden society (cf. Mt. 5:13-14). By making ours what really belongs to others, by deceiving labourers, cheating in business, 'robbing' the truth through muscle power, behaving irresponsibly towards our eco-systems and destroying the innocence of children, we blemish God’s Kingdom. In such a vitiated environment, we are mandated to spread the values of God’s Kingdom (cf. Mk. 16:15). If we, therefore, do not strive to eradicate the evil in our society by living lives of simplicity and righteousness, we shall fail to satisfy the demands of the Gospel.
"Too often, people seem helpless to defend themselves against corrupt politicians, judiciary officials, administrators and bureaucrats. However, there is a growing awareness throughout Asia of people’s capacity to change unjust structures" (Ecclesia in Asia, 8). Corrupt living distances a person from the God of Righteousness and makes him/her an instrument of injustice, indeed, a slave of sin. Those in power, therefore, should strongly protest against corruption and, with the help of all citizens, create systems to fight this evil effectively. These systems should be based on a few strong resolutions, like: total elimination of bribes, transparency in all dealings and policies, timely payment of just wages, buying and selling through genuine documents only, restraining from exploiting the weaknesses of the poor, striving to live always in justice and truth, being familiar with, teaching and making use of the Right to Information Act.
Priests in Parishes and Superiors of Religious Institutions are encouraged to hold a meaningful Eucharistic Celebration on the Day of Justice and Peace and, besides sharing this Message with those under their care, they could try and organize special programmes in their own areas to create awareness about corruption. Through an ever deepening reflection on these issues, a movement for social transformation can begin through our Small Communities. We would like to renew our call to everyone to help establish Parish Social Apostolate Fora (PSAF) in all our Parishes. Our Christian sisters and brothers should strive to get proper information on corrupt practices in our society and take measures to expose them.
My hope and wish is that all Christ's followers should be in the frontline of any social transformation activity. We must all participate actively in this mission, along with followers of other faiths. The greatness of India is not to be measured by her material wealth, but by the level of the moral life of her citizens. To realize this, Indians - and that is all of us -- must live in a manner that helps do away with corruption and injustice. My fervent prayer is that we, the followers of Christ, may live such lives in the first place and thereby give a shining witness to our Guru and Lord.
Archbishop's House, Panjim, Goa, August 8, 2006.
+ Filipe Neri Ferrao
Archbishop of Goa and Daman