“Agitation in Social Justice”
The Peace and Justice assembly held in Solihull a few weeks ago made a huge impact on the outlook of the participants regarding their role in society. Most of the attendees were involved in organizations in the parish or communities which promote social justice and peace. There were two inspirational talks in the morning and an open forum in the afternoon where participants were invited to raise questions regarding the talks made by the two outstanding speakers. The participants were then divided into several groups facilitated by different active and dynamic organizations for Social Justice and Peace to promote their aims, model, membership, and current projects. Luckily, I was listed to join the Citizens UK group.
Alison Gelder – Director of Housing Justice Liam Allmark – Public Affairs Officer, Caritas Social Action Network
Citizens UK is a registered charity with a 16-year track record of bringing communities together to work for the common good. This organization was initiated by Bishop Victor Guazzelli in East London in 1996, it flourished and became successful in helping and empowering numerous communities all over the UK. The workshop was facilitated by Sr. Helen of the Sisters of Mercy based in Handsworth, Birmingham, and a middle aged Moslem, Saeed, who was inspired and drawn by the ideals of the organization, and works as a full time facilitator and organizer.
The Sisters of Mercy, Handsworth, Birmingham, Sr Helen is 2nd from the right, top row.
Saidul Haque Saeed
Community Organiser, Citizens UK – Birmingham.
c/o Sisters of Mercy, 98 Hunters Road, Birmingham, B19 1EB.
Mobile: 07878 673 186
Prior to the introduction of Citizens UK to the attendees, each one was asked to provide a line or two about their hopes and fears in the community where they live, or the parish they are involved with, or in society. Individual accounts of hopes and fears were as follows: An elderly but dynamic lady working with a Faith and Justice group in her parish mentioned that she felt confronted with a huge effort of fighting against a brick wall in dealing with the resolution of different community issues and raised a question: “Shall we be despondent or be dynamic and active for the good of others?” A young lady living in a community for many years but not having known any of her neighbours questioned continuing to dwell in this situation and be swallowed up by the individualism society is promoting, not minding anyone or giving any concern to the other’s needs or being involved in initiating even a simple conversation to neighbours.
A nun who lived in one of the outskirts in Pakistan for 15 years focused on the interrelationship among the groups of people in a community, the fear of fundamentalism, greed for money, sale of ammunition and ideas of war. The chaos and destruction infused from childhood that is rampant nowadays especially in the poorest communities all over the world was her concern. A question raised by her: “Do we allow the western world to support and promote the idealism of war to these poverty stricken areas and aid in the total destruction of the basic unit of the community, the family?” A middle aged man who is stuck in his home caring for his sick wife yet who is ever willing to lend a hand in the simplest way, mentioned, ‘to help one person to grow is to help the world to grow’.
A middle aged lady who works with a justice and peace organization in one of the parishes noted that community organization must be resurrected and refreshed, the Church must make an effort in promoting and supporting the spirit of community, of helping one another, of being heard, to lessen or eradicate individualism, as each one belongs to a community who is for each other and not to feel alone. An elderly man who is a founder-member of the justice and peace group in a busy parish. Another man in his 50’s believed that human beings are born to be good, selfishness and spitefulness are learned behaviour and can be changed, and wished the eradication of organizations that make bad behaviour appear to be natural which damages the society and brings destruction of human values.
A small elderly lady who is a volunteer in one of the Church’s organizations in her parish noted that cynicism will win in society if we allow fear and complacency to grow in our communities, having the courage to do even in small things or make an effort for the community will make a change. Another lady in her 60’s was hoping for all the human beings to wake up and address issues in the government and the community, to make the Church relevant in their lives empowering each one and offering anything they could give for the change they are aiming for. A nun in her 60’s mentioned that people from different ethnic groups have to develop a good relationship and work for the betterment of their local community. A lay religious brother hoped that this country would continue to offer a refuge of faith and Godly life for people of different backgrounds and races as his fear was the increase of an ungodly attitude to others which could lead to social disaster.
Finally, a nun on her 50’s then concluded that PRAYER is what is needed … belief in God, One God, One Faith, One Love- to act upon that love with complete humility and be dependent upon the One God- there is nothing to fear!
This suggested that all of the attendees were aware of the problems in their communities and have that desire to be a part of the community, a vigour within oneself to help change or resolve the issues which affect the peace and order in their communities. This group was very enthusiastic and dedicated to render their presence for the welfare of others, protecting each one’s dignity and provision of justice to the oppressed and deprived. There is a willing spirit to contribute in minimizing human suffering and building a better society where all human beings can live in harmony, solidarity and peace.
The Citizens UK facilitators encouraged each one to be a part of the community, to be active, dynamic, and to start an action to address any specific concern in the parish. They have presented a few issues which have been responsible for, or the cause of, the problems arising in few communities. The organization was able to resolve such issues with a good outcome in the communities and became the model to other communities with the same problems. Currently, Citizens UK initiated steps of tackling a few issues in the communities in Birmingham and the attendees agreed and signed up to help in resolving these issues. In conclusion, there was an exchange of e-mails and the organizer promised to contact each one and encouraged everyone to be involved in the future projects of the organizations.