In this, the third in our Year of Mercy editions for 2016, we look at mercy in social justice.
Soon Australians will go to an election. One of the senate candidates for Western Australia is Professor Patrick Dodson, an Aboriginal leader from Broome and longtime advocate for Indigenous people.
In September last year, I heard him speak at the Australasian Catholic Press Association Conference. He talked about the need for meaningful recognition for Indigenous people in the constitution, and how Aboriginal people had been excluded from participating in the nation’s governance until 1967. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander still suffer lower life expectancy, higher rates of incarceration, and discrimination in our communities.
If we’re talking about a national community, said Prof Dodson, we have to look not only who’s included in that community, but also who’s excluded.
‘There’s a whole group of people in our society who are being relegated to the margins. We have to do something about that as a nation’, he said.
‘The more we allow fear to dictate and dominate our capacity to be generous and open and merciful towards others, the greater the difficulty we’re going to have in creating meaningful, constructive and happy societies. And certainly we’ll have difficulty in sustaining our natural environments, because we’ll treat them as we treat human beings.’
Many say climate change is the biggest challenge facing our planet. But it’s more than just a scientific or economic challenge – it’s a social challenge as well, one that goes hand in hand with how we see our brothers and sisters in need. We can either be open to changing our way of life for the good of others, or closed off to any change.
In this edition, we look at mercy in the context of social justice. This is about more than offering people charity. It's about looking for the places in society where people are excluded and going out of our way to provide them with a meaningful place at the table.