PACSA’s 36th Annual General Meeting
Category : PACSA news
PACSA had its 36th Annual General Meeting on 13 June 2015 at the Msunduzi Museum. The AGM was attended by 45 people amongst whom were a number of PACSA members including a few founding members. After the business part of the meeting Rev Russell Pollitt, Director of the Jesuit Institute in Johannesburg, addressed the meeting on the topic, ‘Faith, Justice and Social Action in South Africa Today.’In his address Rev Russell Pollitt argued that social justice is at the very heart of faith. A major theme running through the Judeo-Christian texts is that of protecting the vulnerable, the foreigner, the widow and the orphan. We are living in a society and world that is increasingly interdependent but despite that, is divided by injustice – personal but institutional -‐ built into the economic, social and political structures of life. Our responses to these challenges, as people of faith, will be unavailing unless they are total (not ‘band-‐aid responses’ and not losing sight of the fact that God changes the human heart but using all the resources we have – being present with, research and advocacy), corporate (not going it alone!), rooted in faith and experience (combined they teach us how to respond appropriately to needs arising) and multiform (different levels of our engagement which may require new, innovative responses e.g. promoting access to justice where, perhaps, it is not accessible for communities). We are being asked to practice discernment – individually and corporately – so that we can come to a deeper understanding of the movements, aspirations and struggles of our world today. Faith-based organizations need to guard against becoming ‘another NGO’ which pursues a cause. What makes us different is that we are motivated by faith and faith always offers hope – the person in totality. If we cannot offer our society and world hope we have lost our very essence. Our social action needs to be ‘Faith in action’ which inspires hope. He presented the following as tasks that faith-based organizations should strive towards: • Help our society hear the cry of the poor – raise awareness, bring to light, work for the common good. The widening gap between the rich and poor – and the conditions of the poor – should leave every Christian uncomfortable, with sleepless nights
• Defending rights of the marginalised – seems to me that hard fought for rights are being eroded – they were realised in Constitution but are being undermined by ruling elites (some say one party state). There are two standards in the country – one for ruling elites and one for the rest. FBO’s in a position to protect rights advocate but also work “on the ground”. Not just running soup kitchens, these have their place, but also confronting unjust structures/institutions that keep people poor and working for integral development. Not just changing structures but also helping cultivate/generate new attitudes/convictions.
• Research on social issues – and forming partnerships in research so that we can effectively deal with social problems with good knowledge and understanding
• Seeking solidarity with the poor – in the words of Pope Francis “solidarity must be lived as the decision to restore to the poor what belongs to them.”