Time to Act – February: Challenging the pandemic of indifference

Do you flick over the TV news channel when yet another item comes on that is depressing? Do you just want to be entertained rather than informed? Ellen Teague from the Columban Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation team explains there is nothing wrong in that, however, we must not allow self-preservation to override engagement with the burning justice, peace and ecology issues in today’s world. We must not stop caring.

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At least that is the view of Pope Francis, who calls for us to overcome indifference. He said at the beginning of the pandemic that, “indifference, self-centeredness, division and forgetfulness are not words we want to hear at this time.” In December, his new book, ‘Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future’, stated that we can’t serve others unless we let their reality speak to us – “to go there, you have to open your eyes and let the suffering around you touch you, so that you hear the Spirit of God speaking to you from the margins.”

Pope Francis calls for us to engage with the dedication of medical staff in Covid wards, the rise in child poverty in Britain and with places and people suffering conflict. Pope Francis warns against pessimism, “which is like a door you shut on the future and the new things it can hold”. We should commit ourselves “to small, concrete, positive actions”, “whether sowing hope or working for justice.” Think of people in Britain volunteering at foodbanks or vaccination centres.

Pope Francis talks of the “other pandemic, the virus of indifference,” which is the result of constantly looking away, telling ourselves that because there is no immediate solution, it is better not to feel anything. “Hence” he suggests, “people judge situations without empathy, without any ability to walk for a time in the other’s shoes.”

He says that in Italy you often hear people say ‘che me ne frega’ when they hear of a problem. It means, ‘So what? What’s it got to do with me?’ This reveals a mindset. Some Italians claim you need a healthy dose of ‘so-whatism’ to get through life, because if you start worrying about what you see, how are you ever going to relax? Pope Francis feels, “this attitude ends up armour-plating the soul, so that certain things just bounce off.” One of the dangers of indifference is that it can become normal, silently seeping into our lifestyles and value judgments.

We must become aware of this ‘so-whatism’ and open ourselves to the blows that reach us now from every corner of the globe. Pope Francis calls for us to take an active part in renewing our troubled societies. Columbans in Latin America highlight the impact of destructive mining on rainforests and indigenous peoples. In Lima, Peru, they have organised emergency food and educational resources for poor communities. In Pakistan they promote tree planting and ecological awareness in the context of global warming. In South Korea Columbans challenge the resources devoted to building a huge nuclear base on Jeju island. In January, Columbans welcomed the new UN Treaty banning nuclear weapons. We must not get used to indifference. God is never indifferent.

Make a difference in the world

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers and half-truths,
so that you will live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that
you will work for justice, equality and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain,
rejection, starvation and war,
so that you will reach out your hand to comfort them and change their pain to joy.
And may God bless you with the foolishness to think that you can make a difference to
the world and to act in that belief.
May the blessing of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love God and the fellowship of the Holy
Spirit be with us all.


Pax Christi

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Download 'Time to Act: February' - three campaign actions for this month.

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