This passage from St. Luke’s Gospel has always intrigued me. Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, cries from deep within,“If only today you knew the things that make for peace, but they are hidden from your sight…” We all long for a time when light will pierce the darkness of our individual and collective lives so that all of God’s people, and our planet, can enjoy the peace that God desires for us all. Why does it all seem so elusive? If we are honest with ourselves, we each know what we need to do in order to foster peace within us, around us, among us. It is simply, profoundly, a matter of intentional doing. When we play this out on the international stage, it gets a bit more dicey – but the same holds true. It is a matter of intentional doing – doing the right thing. Some would call this action on behalf of the common good. But the great tragedy of our times is that the players on the international stage seem to have lost a sense of what the common good means, and just how important it is for us all – Earth included.
Empowerment of People
The Commission for Social Development addresses the theme Promoting the Empowerment of People in Achieving Poverty Eradication, Social Integration and Full and Decent Work for All. This theme resonates strongly with the Dominican Family worldwide. Our brothers and sisters live and work among some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. From Democratic Republic of Congo, to the Philippines, to the Solomon Islands, to Peru, to Mexico and the United States the questions are the same: where is the political will to bring about transformative change? Where is the sense of the common good that would bring an end to the inequality that dooms untold millions to a sub-human existence? In other words, why is there no intentional doing of what everyone on some level knows needs to be done?
An Unequal Playing Field
According to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, “Lack of power is a universal and basic characteristic of poverty.” People remain disempowered when they have no access to the elements that make for a life free from fear and want. In a report to the Secretary General, “Realizing the Future We Want for All,” the UN Task Force urges us to make globalization a positive force for present and future generations. However, at present the benefits of globalization are very unevenly shared. Moreover, the report states that persistent inequalities and struggles over scarce resources are among the key determinants of situations of conflict, hunger, insecurity and violence, which in turn impede sustainable social development.
The Scandal of Military Spending
In an opinion piece published in August 2012 entitled The World Is Over-Armed and Peace Is Under-Funded, the Secretary General addressed the dilemma which contributes heavily to the disempowerment of millions of people worldwide; namely, global military spending. Last year it was estimated that this spending exceeded $1.7 trillion – or more than $4.6 billion a day. This figure includes billions of dollars for modernizing nuclear arsenals well into the future. Weapons of mass destruction being improved, while inequality and poverty run rampant – is this what makes for peace? NGO representatives at the UN are persistent in raising this issue. Is there the political will to divert a portion of this wasted money to the basic needs of the human family, as well as to safeguarding the integrity of the planet? As we participate with members of civil society from all over the world in the Commission for Social Development and the Commission on the Status of Women, my colleagues and I will take to heart the words of Pope Francis, who spoke of “the scandal of poverty in a world of plenty.” He referred to it as “a piercing moral challenge for the whole human community…A way has to be found to enable everyone to benefit from the fruits of the earth, and not simply to close the gap between the affluent and those who must be satisfied with the crumbs falling from the table.” “If only today you knew the things that make for peace…” We know what these are; and so do the world’s leaders. Are we prepared to deal with the cost of inaction? Or, are we willing to be inconvenienced, for the sake of the common good?
Margaret Mayce OP
About the Author: Margaret Mayce OP is the Dominican representative (Dominican Leadership Conference ) at the United Nations in New York