Thursday, April 29, 2010

Standing with the People

As Lucienne Siers explains in our conversation this week, the Partnership for Global Justice believes in not only advocating on behalf of those who don't run governments or corporations but also helping make it possible for them to speak for themselves.  "Standing with," she explains, means listening to, offering moral support, helping organize additional supporters -- being present.  This is the role of NGOs -- non-governmental organizations.  So while she is clearly proud of the work of the United Nations, where her work is based, she also recognizes the importance of representing those who are not usually invited to the tables of power. 

As I spoke with her, I kept thinking about a recent column by New York Times commentator Nicholas D.  Kristof, reminding readers, in the midst of the latest discussions about how churches handled cases of abuse by priests, that there is another Catholic Church: "the grass-roots Catholic Church that does far more good in the world than it ever gets credit for. This is the church that supports extraordinary aid organizations like Catholic Relief Services and Caritas, saving lives every day, and that operates superb schools that provide needy children an escalator out of poverty."  The Partnership for Global Justice clearly represents this version of the church. 

I'm not Catholic, but unlike many of my politically-progressive friends I not only value the progressive work that many religious groups do but also participate actively in a religious community.  I do so without ignoring the limitations and contradictions that are inherent in all institutions and with the intention of pushing my religious community toward more engagement with the world and less concern about rules, boundaries, and control.  So I may be more inclined than some to respect the kind of work Sr. Lucienne Siers and her sister Catholics are doing.  Projects like this remind me that faith can -- as it should -- inspire us to act justly.

By the way, Lucienne mentioned the UN's "Millennium Development Goals" a couple of times in the interview.  You can find them here, and learn more about how they're being pursued.

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