The Expanding Horizons of Justice
Anthony Dias, SJ (BOM)
I hail from Mumbai and joined the Society of Jesus after working in India and then in Oman. My understanding of Justice was confined to the interaction between the "text" and my rather limited "context"; and vice versa. This understanding grew when I was exposed to the living conditions of the poor and those made poor (the impoverished) that denied them basic human dignity. I was inspired by those who spoke up against injustice, "who spoke truth to power" and were willing to pay the price, even as I began to reflect seriously on the causes and consequences of injustice. The disciples of Jesus, as the biblical text says, had to be clever as serpents yet innocent as doves.
The consequences of speaking up were starkly manifest in the brutal assassination of the six Jesuits, their house worker and her daughter. The murdered Jesuits were highly educated University professors at the UCA (University of Central America in San Salvador), who according to Noam Chomsky "uncovered lies and spoke the truth." They were intellectuals, who knew what was going on and wanted their students and the world around to know the Truth. The fact that several Jesuits responded to the call by their General to occupy the posts left vacant by the martyred Jesuits tells another story, not unconnected with the triumph of the Cross. The inspirational text - A Dream for an American University - written by Jon Sobrino, SJ, who escaped death because he was out on a teaching assignment talks about the context of El Salvador.
The God of the poor is revealed not only in the libraries of Universities, but more vividly in the havelis* and favelas, in Jhuggi jhopris and on pavements; in resistance movements and protest marches. When I marched with the Adivasis in the long march led by the Narmada Bachao Andolan**, protesting against their forcible eviction and destruction of their river, I learned many lessons - from knowing how to think on one's feet to re-thinking the very notion of development. I became more aware of environmental justice and ecological debt. It taught me how to network and collaborate for Justice with groups and organizations I never knew ever existed. From a non-Catholic, a Marxist to be precise, I learned that the Eucharist was actually being enacted on the long march for Justice that began in the Narmada Valley around Christmas time in the year 1990.
I learned from the dispossessed how the state "made us hope-less, after making us home-less" all in the name of development. From a tribal woman I learned to challenge "development" when she asked, "If these projects are in public interest, why are they not in our interest?" From a compassionate and just Commissioner of the SCs (Scheduled Castes) and STs (Scheduled Tribes), I learned more about the rights of the original inhabitants and the notion of native title. I learned that it is the state, and not the poor, who is the actual "encroacher". From the nomads and the so-called ex-criminal tribes (CT), I learned the notion of historical injustice and that despite advancement of the rights jurisprudence, for the poor the legal system is "criminal injustice system". From a member of the CT, who asserted that "the law is criminal, not us", I learned that the courts are indeed courts of law, not of Justice.
When exploitation of the voiceless, extreme poverty, rapidly growing inequality, assertion of narrow identities, ethnic and religious conflicts, communal propaganda and hatred are threatening to tear the social fabric asunder, there is a need to work collectively for Justice. And that during these times of universal deceit, chiefly in the so-called "post-truth Society", speaking the Truth is indeed a revolutionary act.
"The struggle against injustice
and the pursuit of truth
cannot be separated nor can one
work for one independent of the other."
Ignatio Ellacuría, S.J.
Murdered superior of Jesuit community at the UCA
* Havelis and Jhuggi Jhopris are the dwellings/shanties of the poor in India.
** Literally means "Save Narmada (River) Agitation" - a people's movement against large dams that destroyed ecology and ousted people from their ancestral land.