Archived News Item

Becoming more aware of ‘the other’

As we commence this new year, Sister Carmel Heagerty, the Institute’s Justice Co-ordinator reminds readers of the challenges of the Gospel and invites us to become more aware of the ‘other’ and to recommit ourselves to work for justice for all people.

Recently I was reflecting on ‘light’ and ‘darkness’ in my own life and I as turned the pages of one of my books I read the following story.

Signs of Daybreak

A rabbi once asked his students how they could tell when night had ended and day was on its way back.
‘Is it when you can see an animal in the distance, and can tell whether it is a sheep or a dog?’
‘No,’ answered the rabbi.
‘Is it when you can look at a tree in the distance, and tell whether it is a fig tree or a peach tree?’
‘Well then,’ the students demanded, ‘when is it?’
‘It is when you look on the face of another human being, and see that he or she is your brother or sister. Because if you cannot do that, no matter what time it is, it is still night.’

Source unknown
From One Hundred Wisdom Stories from around the World, Margaret Silf, 2003 Lion Publishing

I reflected on the moments of ‘daybreak’ in my life and I invite you to reflect on your own life. When have you looked at another person and really ‘seen’ the person as a sister or brother? What was the response from your mind? What was the response from your heart?

In the Christmas and the New Year seasons many words of kindness were spoken, gifts of friendship exchanged and resolutions were made as 2008 dawned. As images of lights, fireworks, parties and people were screened around the world:

  • What were your thoughts?
  • What are your hopes?
  • What is your resolution for 2008?

Reflecting on 2007, many images, people and words come to mind. Do you remember?

  • The courage of emergency crews attending the devastation of fires, accidents…
  • The wonder of the birth of a baby
  • The joy of celebrations
  • The strength in despair
  • The extreme suffering endured by the people around the world
  • The disasters that left many people in mourning
  • The achievements of the ‘ordinary neighbour’
  • The awe of discovery
  • The anger of experiencing injustice
  • The devastation of failed crops
  • And the very personal journey that each of us travelled during 2007.

“It is when you look on the face of another human being, and see that he or she is your brother or sister. Because if you cannot do that, no matter what time it is, it is still night.”

It takes an openness of mind and heart, a respect for oneself and others and, a belief in the call of the Gospel to take the first step and see ‘the other’ as a brother or sister. Perhaps this is the ‘unreachable dream’. But is it possible to become more aware of the ‘other’, taking strength from times when this has happened and to recommit oneself to work for justice for all people?

The Institute’s Specific Issues Committees will gather in Sydney this month to consider plans for highlighting the issues associated with:

  • Asylum Seekers and Refugees
  • Eco-Justice
  • Indigenous Concerns
  • Women and Poverty

The commitment of the committees over the last two years has provided a wealth of information on these critical areas including reference material and suggested calls to action.

I wonder if you would gain strength and determination to tackle some of these issues if you had a sense of solidarity with members of the Institute and the community.

How prepared are we to stand up and be counted and in declaring our commitment to a more just world, enable others to stand with us and work for everyone’s human rights? It would be very supportive to circulate the many ways readers are working for justice and to know of the ripple effect caused by these articles. Will you forward your actions and ideas to the relevant committee?

“Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

From: Carmel Heagerty RSM, Institute Justice Co-ordinator